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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

UAE company cannot contract around Labour Law

While the contract may state that employees must reimburse the company for costs, this is contrary to government instructions and a company cannot contract around UAE law in such a way that is detrimental to employees.

I am writing to you on behalf of my daughter who was employed in Abu Dhabi for four months. She was hired locally on a salary of Dh1,600 per month for a 48-hour work week on an unlimited contract. Her contract also stated that there was a probationary period of six months and during this either the employer or the employee could terminate the contract with no notice period required. My daughter resigned after four months of employment for a number of reasons. She never worked a 48-work week but routinely worked 60 to 70 hours with no extra pay, and no extra days off in lieu, even though she was expected to work every Friday. When she quit she offered to work a two-week notice period but was asked to leave immediately. This she did and even though she was anxious to leave the country, the HR department took over two weeks to process her departure, at which time they had possession of her passport. The contract included a clause stating that “the company reserves the right to recover the visa and employment-related costs incurred on your behalf prior to completion of two years’ service”. My daughter was unable to get her passport without paying the company an amount that was more than her monthly salary for items including an employment visa, the medical for the visa and her ID card. I don’t believe she should have paid this and so should get compensation. What can she do? JD, Abu Dhabi

This company has broken many of the rules and articles in the UAE Labour Law. While the contract may state that employees must reimburse the company for costs, this is contrary to government instructions and a company cannot contract around UAE law in such a way that is detrimental to employees. My view is that the clause is illegal and cannot be legally enforced. If the contract stated a working week of 48 hours then any additional hours worked should be paid as overtime. Article 69 of labour law states: “Actual overtime may not exceed two hours per day unless work is necessary to prevent substantial loss or serious accident or to eliminate or alleviate its effects.” The law goes on to state: “Except for labourers on daily wage, an employee may not work on more than two Fridays successively” (Article 71). The employer has not acted in accordance with the law and so the employee should be able to raise a case with the Ministry of Labour, at the very least to request a refund of the penalty paid, if not more. It is harder to make a complaint if someone has left the country but action can still be taken, especially if the complainant has a representative in the country.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 20 years of 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. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate independent legal advice.

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