x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Questions on the start of service and the end of service

Our resident consumer advocate answers questions on utilities, end-of-service gratuity calculation and savings plans.

A few tenants are currently facing difficulties when applying for a new connection with Dewa. Jeff Topping / The National
A few tenants are currently facing difficulties when applying for a new connection with Dewa. Jeff Topping / The National

My wife and I are shortly to move into a villa, but are finding it impossible to register with Dewa (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) as we do not have a copy of the title deeds for the property and the landlord is saying that he does not have a copy himself. Is this common and what can we do? LJ, Dubai

I have heard that quite a few tenants are currently facing difficulties when applying for a new connection with Dewa. Whereas in the past Dewa would accept an Affection Plan, an official site plot plan issued by the government with survey coordinates delineating the boundary, they are now insisting on seeing the title deeds. I would expect any landlord to have a copy and to provide this, but if they do not they will have to apply for a copy at the Land Department. Obtaining the document can take three months, but my understanding is that Dewa will accept a letter from the landlord with proof of the request.

My question is about the end-of-service gratuity calculation. Does DIFC or UAE law say how to count continuous service? What if a company transfers a long-time employee to the DIFC and then terminates him (not for misconduct) after six months? Where do I stand? SP, Dubai

In this situation the entitlement will depend on the contract and what SP has received to date. If an employer transfers an employee either into or out of a free zone, they are entitled to continuous service from the date they started employment. The only exception would be if the employee accepted a new contract of employment and received an end of service gratuity payment at the time of the change of location. If that was the case, the clock is effectively set to zero and the employee has no entitlement to another gratuity payment until 12 months' service has been completed.

Just over six years ago I took out a savings plan with Royal Skandia. It was for a short term as I was not sure how long I would remain in the UAE. The six years are up and it now seems likely that I will stay here for another two years before going back to the United Kingdom. I contacted my adviser after I received a letter about the maturity from the insurance company and he told me that I have to take the money from the plan and start a new one if I want to keep saving in this way. As I won't be here that much longer, this seems a bit daft and I would be grateful if you would advise if I have any other options. RF, Abu Dhabi

Once you reach the end of the initial term with this Royal Skandia Managed Savings Account, you have a number of choices. You can surrender the plan in full without penalty; you can stop paying premiums but leave the monies invested to take them at any time without penalty; or you can continue paying premiums with the facility to stop them at any time and to take the proceeds whenever you want without any penalties. It is not in your interest to start a new plan with a term that is longer than you will be in the UAE as you may have tax liabilities if you cash in this type of plan once you are a UK resident. Your best option to keep investing at the current level is to keep the original plan in the current form, but to review the underlying investment funds and to cash in before you return to the UK. You can remit the monies to the UK in cash before you return, as in your position you would not have a tax liability, or you can consider alternative investments that can be maintained once you are a UK resident and have tax advantages no matter where you reside. I recommend you seek advice from an independent financial adviser.

When I received a promotion last year, my manager gave me a new offer letter with a condition in it stating that I cannot work for any clients of the company after I leave. This was an offer letter relating to the promotion only and my increased salary and was not a new employment contract, as the letter says that the original contract is still valid. The only contract I signed was the labour contract some three years ago which did not say anything about working for clients, although there was something in there about not going to work for a competitor. I have now been offered a job by a company that is an occasional client and I would like to know, how legally binding is the letter I signed? CC, Dubai

After further inquiries it transpired that CC was also a signatory to the new offer letter, which was a formal document on company letterhead. He does not work in a free zone and as he signed the document it is legally binding, although it does expressly refer to working for a competitor. Whether anything will come of it will be dependent on the employer taking legal action as it is a separate issue to the UAE employment contract which was lodged with the ministry. It would seem somewhat unusual to try to prevent an employee from going to work for a client rather than a competitor, particularly if the company wants to avoid problems with the client or to retain them.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com