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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

'Will I lose my job if I grow a beard?'

The Dubai resident's employer has a strict dress code, which includes being clean shaven

The employee, who would like to sport a beard, works for a hospitality supply company. Photo: Getty Images
The employee, who would like to sport a beard, works for a hospitality supply company. Photo: Getty Images

I work for a hospitality supply company supporting five star hotels and properties. As I am in sales, I was told by our company management that we need stay clean shaven at all times, displaying the etiquette and dressing rules set by the organisation. Is it permissible by law to enforce this compulsion on the employee? What if the employee sports a beard and the management terminates him from a job? What does UAE Labour Law say about this? MG, Dubai

There are no specific clauses in UAE Labour Law that relate to the issue of having a beard while employed. That said, it is not unreasonable of a company to have a dress code for employees that represent them. Provided an employee complies with the general dress code, I do not think that an employer has grounds to terminate the employment of a staff member that has a tidy beard but still follows the rest of the rules. It is the decision of the individual to retain a beard, whether for fashion or religious reasons. If an employer decides to terminate an employee for this reason the individual would have cause to register a case with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

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We have recently taken on an employee to do a specific technical role in our company. In his offer letter we stipulated that his full-time employment would be subject to passing a specific examination, which permits approval under our regulatory body. Unfortunately, he didn’t pass this exam first time so doesn’t have the required approvals and won’t be able to fulfil the role properly until he takes this exam again and passes. The test can be taken again in three months, but he is on a three-month notice period, which will expire before then. If he doesn’t pass it the second time we would want to let him go but do we have to give a full three months’ notice - as it states in the contract? We would be happy to give one month with full pay. Also, can we do anything about the probation period? The contract just says three months but can that be extended? NO, Abu Dhabi

If it was made clear in an offer letter and/or an employment contract that a role is subject to passing an examination and gaining legal approval, but an individual does not pass the relevant exam then it can be argued that they are in breach of contract. That would therefore be grounds for dismissal at any stage. In this case the employee is on an unlimited contract in a mainland company so this simplifies the matter somewhat.

While the contract states a three-month notice period, the employer can extend this and Articled 37 of UAE Labour Law is relevant here. This states: "The worker may be employed for a probation period not exceeding six months where the employer may terminate the services of the worker without notification or end of service gratuity. The worker may not be employed by the same employer for more than one probation period. Should the worker successfully complete the probation period and pursues in his job, the said period shall be deemed as a part of the service period."

Extending the notice period means that the employee can be terminated during this period without any notice and the period of three months stated in the contract is not valid. The company can give their preferred notice period of one month although the total period of employment, including notice, should not exceed six months or the full contract terms will apply.

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I have just resigned after working for three years with the same company on an unlimited contact. Does the company have to pay for my plane ticket home? There is nothing in my contract about this. EW, Sharjah

The subject of whether an employer is liable to pay for a plane ticket to an individual’s home country is covered in Article 131 of UAE Labour Law which states: "Expenses for repatriation of an employee to his place of origin or any other place agreed upon by both parties shall be borne by the employer. If the employee after the end of his contract takes up employment somewhere else, repatriation expenses upon termination of his service shall be paid by the last employer." It then goes on to say: “If the cause for termination of contract is attributed to the employee, his repatriation will be arranged at his own expense if he has the mean to pay.” The final sentence here is relevant as this means that as EW left employment of his own accord and assuming he has the funds to pay for his flight to his home country, it is his personal responsibility. The only exception would be if a contract of employment stated that the employer would bear the cost no matter the circumstances.

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