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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

UAE legal Q&A: can my boss make me choose between taking on more work or being fired?

A worker asks if their boss can lawfully ask them to take on the work of two roles or be made redundant

I have been employed by a company in Dubai for 18 months as an Operations Manager. Recently, my employer gave me an amended job description for the role of Project Manager with new responsibilities pertaining to that post. However, also included is all the functional work load of my current role as an Operations Manager. This was without any increment in salary or change in job title.

I had informed my employer that I am not qualified nor am I comfortable with taking on the role of Project Manager. My employer then gave me a choice of either taking on the role without the change in title or salary increment or he would have no choice but to make my position redundant. This conversation was conveyed over WhatsApp messages.

I declined the position again and have now been given a termination letter for my current role in the company with 30 days’ notice with the stipulation of the company making a financial cut back due to lack of business. The termination letter does not stipulate that my employer is making my position redundant but only that my employment is now being terminated. I have asked that my employer amend the termination letter stipulating that he is making my position redundant however, my employer has refused, enforcing the termination.

Is it legal for an employer to force an employee to choose between either taking on a different role with no change in title or salary or be terminated?

Employment contracts under the UAE Employment Law are binding and enforceable. Both the employer and the employee must respect the terms and conditions. Changing any of the terms and conditions including the job position and description requires the approval and agreement of both parties.

The employer's conduct in this situation is considered here to be illegal and fall under the article 122 and 123 of the UAE Labour law, Federal Law No 8 for 1980, which covers the arbitrary dismissal aspects.

The UAE Labour law, Federal Law No 8 for 1980 (and its amendments), has identified the terms of an employment contract in Chapter I, which states that an Employment Contract is any agreement, whether for a limited or for an unlimited period, concluded between an employer and an employee under which the latter undertakes to work in the service of the employer and under his management or control against a remuneration payable to him by the employer.

The article defined remuneration as whatever is given to the employee in consideration of his services under the employment contract, whether in cash or in kind, payable annually, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, or by piece-meal or pro rata to the production or as a commission. The remuneration includes the high cost of living allowance, and any benefit given to the employee in reward for his honesty or efficiency, provided always that these amounts are prescribed in the Company bylaws or in the employment contract, or normally practiced or granted to the employees, until they have been regarded by these as an integral part of the remuneration rather than a donation.

The above definition binds the employer’s desire to change the concluded employment terms and conditions without the employee consent and oblige him to produce a new written contract that specifies the new amendments and tasks, salary, and other changes.

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