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Dubai: Jobs - The legal aspects – Part 4

Dubai:  Jobs - The legal aspects – Part 4

Changing jobs
Be aware that there is an UAE law which aims to stop people from job-hopping. This law enables former employers to give an ex-employee a (minimum) six months ban from working in the United Arab Emirates if they resign from a job after only a short period. Such a candidate is not able to accept another job unless the former employer agrees before the person was banned. A worker can transfer to a new employer if his original sponsor or employer provides him with a ‘letter of no objection’ or a ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC). If the sponsor is your employer (which is usually the case), he may be reluctant to allow you to go and work for another company, although he may be willing to issue and NOC in order to avoid the expense of returning you to your country of origin.

The general rule is that you’re given three written warnings detailing your failings or shortcomings before dismissal.

If you break the law, you can be instantly dismissed if the situation warrants it and the employer is so inclined. If you become involved in an altercation serious enough to warrant police attention, for example, or if you’re found guilty of drunken driving, your employer might dismiss you. You would be deemed to have defaulted on the terms of your contract and be ineligible for any indemnity payment due to you. However, an employee cannot be dismissed (or demoted) while on leave out of the country.

If you’re made redundant, the termination clause in your contract (of one month or whatever is applicable) comes into effect. Your employer might enhance the offer if he feels that your work deserves it or if it will cause hardship for you to have to leave Dubai.

It’s obviously in your interest to resolve any dispute amicably yourself, as you can never predict the outcome and, even if you ‘win’, it might be damaging or even disastrous to your career prospects. Expatriates should avoid legal tussles whenever possible, which are time consuming and can lead to untold difficulties.

Labor Law
Administered by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Labor Law in the UAE is loosely based on the International Labour Organisation's model. UAE Law No. 8 of 1980, as amended by Law No. 12 of 1986 (the "Labor Law") governs most aspects of employer/employee relations, such as hours of work, leave, termination rights, medical benefits and repatriation. The Labor Law is protective of employees in general and overrides conflicting contractual provisions agreed under another jurisdiction, unless they are beneficial to the employee.

The Ministry issues a model form of labor contract in Arabic which is widely used, but other forms of contract are enforceable, provided they comply with the Labor Law. End of contract gratuities are set at 21 days pay for every year of the first five years of service and 30 days for every year thereafter. Total gratuity should not exceed two years' wages. Employees are entitled to pro-rated amounts for service periods less than a full year, provided they have completed one year in continuous service.

Trade unions do not exist. In the case of a dispute between employer and employee, or in interpretation of the Labor Law, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs will initially act as an adjudicator, in an effort to resolve matters. If a party wishes to appeal any such decision it can take its case to court. Strikes and lock outs are forbidden.

Working Hours and Holidays
The normal maximum working hours are eight per day or 48 per week. However, these hours may be increased to nine daily for people working in the retail trade, hotels, restaurants and other such establishments. Similarly, daily working hours may be reduced for difficult or dangerous jobs. Many businesses work on a two shift system (for example, 8am - 1pm and 4pm - 7pm).

As in all Muslim countries, Friday is the weekly day of rest. In practice, commercial and professional firms work 40-45 hours a week and government ministries about 35. The weekend for office workers has traditionally been Thursday afternoon and Friday, but a number of organizations have changed over to a five day week with Friday and Saturday as the weekend. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, normal working hours are reduced by two hours per day.

There are 10 days of public holidays (paid) in any year. The employee's annual leave is two days for every month if his service is more than six months and less than a year. In every completed year of service after the first, an employee is entitled to 30 days annual paid leave. This is in addition to public holidays, maternity leave for women and sick leave.

Overtime is used extensively and additional pay is required for manual and lower ranking staff.

Employment Contracts
On being offered a job, which in the vast majority of cases happens in the expatriate’s own country, you will almost certainly sign a contract or at least a letter of agreement.
This will contain the conditions of employment and perhaps include a detailed job description, indicating responsibilities and performance standards.

In Dubai, your contract specifies your basic salary, job title, duties and responsibilities, the period of your contract, and possibly also details of the reporting structure and performance measures of the company. An employment contract should also contain termination conditions, including required notice of intent to terminate the contract on either side and liabilities to be incurred in respect of breaking the conditions of the contract. Note that local labor laws apply whether you hold a contract or not. A company contract is likely to take precedence over basic labor laws where its stipulations are in excess of legal requirements, but you still have the protection of the laws as a minimum.

Traditionally, most expatriate contracts were for two years only, but it’s becoming increasingly common for contracts to be open-ended. Employers have found that they can be held to a defined period if the employee proves unsatisfactory, and most contracts now have a termination notice period of between one and three months, or payment in lieu of notice. Contracts can be extended or renewed by mutual consent and frequently are if all parties are happy with things as they are. It’s quite common for expatriates to stay in the Dubai for 20 years or more.

Dubai has sophisticated, computerized control of their labor force and specify job categories that are open to foreign labor. Certain employment is reserved for nationals, particularly in the service industries. You might, therefore, find that your contract gives you the job title you would expect, but the official version on your work visa is something quite different. This might be because of full job quotas or other reasons. You’re sometimes required to attend the Ministry on the completion of your contract to ensure that you have no complaints and to cancel your work visa.

Your passport
There is no law which states that an employee should give his or her passport to the employer. But it has become customary for some employers to retain their employees’ passports. A passport is a document issued by the government of the country and is supposed to be kept in the custody of the passport holder. The law does not mandate that the passport should be kept with the employer. However certain areas have such rules, for example employees sponsored by the authorities in Jebel Ali are required to deposit their passports with the administrative department.

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