x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tricks by bosses and workers exposed

Ministry of Labour officials say both employers and employees are bending labour rules, possibly to the legal detriment of business proprietors.

ABU DHABI // Ministry of Labour officials want company owners to be aware of tricks in the workplace, and the ways by which employers and employees try to fool them.

In a workshop aimed at explaining labour laws to owners, Mohammed Mubarak, a law researcher at the ministry, said he had seen many "playing on the labour law" with contracts and wages.

Mr Mubarak said it was not uncommon for companies to draw up two contracts, one for the ministry and one for internal use, leaving employees confused about the terms.

One contract might state the employment term is for two years, while another notes the work period is unlimited.

"So then when the two years are up and the employee wants to leave with 15 days left in his contract, his employer would tell him, 'no you have a month left'," Mr Mubarak said.

He advised business owners to draw up limited contracts for employees they wished to keep and unlimited contracts for employees who were not crucial.

Before a law was introduced stating labour cards and contracts must be for two years, company owners would draw up four-year contracts, with a labour card and residency visa valid only for three.

"So … at the end of the third year if the employee wants to leave, the employer says 'no, you still have a year left in your contract'," Mr Mubarak said. "They say, 'if you leave now, then you will get a one-year ban from the ministry'."

In such cases, if the employee took the matter to the ministry, the employer is made to sign a promise that if the employee wants to leave in one year, they must be allowed to.

Despite the law, Mr Mubarak said "some employers can still play on this".

"New labourers are weak, they don't know the region," he said.

The ministry has recently started giving pamphlets to newly arrived labourers in their native languages to explain labour laws.

Mr Mubarak also advises company owners to keep a record of all money and benefits given to employees.

"Even with the Wages Protection System (WPS), employees need to keep written proof of everything," he said. "Employers need to keep documents of everything to protect themselves, or else the employee can say that they did not receive anything to the ministry."

And although the WPS has improved conditions for employees "to a percentage that no one can imagine", Mr Mubarak said employers should still take precautions. If there is no evidence of payment given an employee can take them to court.

All companies are obliged to join the WPS and pay salaries directly into employees' bank accounts.

If employees are not paid for two consecutive months they can file a complaint with the ministry, which will bring company owners in for questioning.

If found to be at fault, the company would be fined and receive black points.

Some employers have been found to sponsor people who do not work for them.

"They would sponsor them for money and then tell the person they have sponsored to make sure to enter a certain amount of money into their bank every month so that it looks to the ministry as if they are real employees," Mr Mubarak said.

"But we do surprise inspections to make sure that this does not happen."

osalem@thenational.ae