Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 31 March 2020

'Who pays for my flight home when I decide to leave the UAE?'

A reader who came to the UAE with one employer and leaves following a five-year stint with another asks who stumps up for their air fare home?

 Passengers wait to check-in area at Sharjah International Airport. Employees who terminate contracts because they wish to return home are generally responsible for paying their own costs. Pawan Singh / The National.
 Passengers wait to check-in area at Sharjah International Airport. Employees who terminate contracts because they wish to return home are generally responsible for paying their own costs. Pawan Singh / The National.

I plan to leave my job in the New Year and have been with the company for five years but I was in the UAE for two years with a previous job. We don’t get an annual flight and no one will confirm if they will pay for my flight back to the Philippines when I leave. Can you tell me if they have to pay for my flight if I leave forever? MV, Abu Dhabi

MV works for a company with a mainland licence so UAE Labour Law applies in full. The topic of a flight back to a home country on leaving the UAE permanently is covered in Article 131 of the law which states: “The employer shall, upon the termination of the contract, bear the expenses of repatriation of the worker to the location from which he is hired, or to any other location agreed upon between the parties. Should the worker, upon the termination of the contract, be employed by another employer, the latter shall be liable for the repatriation expenses of the worker upon the end of his service. Subject to the provisions of the preceding clause, should the employer not repatriate the worker and not pay the expenses of such repatriation, the competent authority shall do so at the expense of the employer. Such authority may recover such expenses by means of attachment.

Should the reason of the termination of the contract be attributable to the worker, the latter shall be repatriated at his own expense should he have the means therefore.”

As MV is leaving the job of her own accord, the employer is not legally responsible to pay for the flight, unless this is expressly stated in a contract of employment. The final sentence makes it clear the employee should pay for their own flight unless stated otherwise in the contract.

My father passed away early this year and he has some UK Premium Bonds. He has had them for many years and I am trying to find out if they can be transferred to me as I would like to keep them. I can’t find the answer so can you tell me? RL, Dubai

Premium Bonds are a savings product offered by National Savings & Investments (NS&I) in the UK, backed by the government, and are not dissimilar to the UAE National Bonds. Following the death of the owner of Premium Bonds, the bonds have to be sold as ownership cannot be transferred. The spouse of a deceased owner can hold the Premium Bond for up to 12 months but must sell them thereafter, and this is an option for a legal spouse only, not a child or any other relative. This means that RL cannot retain the savings vehicle in her own name and they must be sold and the monies paid to the deceased’s estate and then to the specified beneficiaries in the will.

Is there any provision in UAE law to claim gratuity in advance after successful completion of say, five years of service? After all, the cash is piling up without any interest on it. I’d like to know if there is any way I can get my gratuity in advance rather than taking a loan? If such provision does not exist, I believe it’s an amazing initiative companies should start implementing as they have options to deduct an advance amount or add according to recent salary increase while calculating final amount after contract termination. AJ, Sharjah

The benefit is correctly called an end-of-service gratuity and it is an amount that is designed to be paid to employees when they end their period of service with a company and not at any other time. There is no legal provision for it to be advanced to an employee at any other time and no company is obliged to pay it sooner, nor should they. This is clearly stated in Article 132 of UAE Labour Law: “The worker having spent one year or more in continuous service shall be entitled to an end of service gratuity upon the termination of his service.” Upon termination, so when it ends. Employers are not permitted to arbitrarily add or deduct pay and that would be frowned upon and in some cases contrary to Labour Law.

The point of this lump sum payment is to be a form of savings vehicle, to supplement retirement planning, not to be used to fund a lifestyle. Although there have been suggestions that it would be a good idea to enforce some kind of capital adequacy requirement, employers do not currently have to set aside money to fund gratuity payments so there is no large pot of money stashed away by most employers to meet such liabilities and certainly no "cash piling up". An individual is also likely to lose out if a gratuity is paid sooner as a) it is based on a final basic salary, which usually increases over time and b) the amount payable increases after five years of service to 30 days’ basic pay for each salary year.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 25 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE.

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.

Updated: December 28, 2019 12:24 PM

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