90-day notice must be followed under terms of contract

A reader asks about the required notice period when resigning from a company.

UAE Labour Law states that an employee should not bear the costs of residency visas and labour cards, but all too often employers add a clause to contracts stating that employees who leave within a certain time are liable to reimburse them. Andrew Parsons / The National
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I am on an unlimited UAE employment contract and have worked for this company for almost two-and-a-half years. My employment contract states that a 90-day notice period is to be given in the event of resignation, but I have found a new job and wish to start it as soon as possible. My question is: am I legally bound to serve the 90-day notice period even though I have completed two years of service and have not signed a new contract? I was offered a new two-year contract, but I refused to sign it as it I didn't like some of the terms. - BM Abu Dhabi

It is unusual to be offered a new contract if you are on an unlimited contract. An employer can request a change of terms, which the individual can refuse and may break employment. However, continued employment is deemed to be the case if the employee is still in the same position and accepting a salary. In most cases, accepting a salary is tantamount to accepting the terms of employment. If your employment contract states 90 days and you agreed to those terms (by signing and/or taking the job), then that is legally binding. Contract law, in this case, takes precedence over UAE Labour Law.

I have been employed by a company in the UAE for eight months. I have resigned from my job and am intending to return to Australia. The company is now asking me to pay Dh12,000 for visa expenses. Can they do this under UAE Labour Law? It seems a lot of money and I thought it was for them to pay, not the employee. PH Dubai

UAE Labour Law states that an employee should not bear the costs of residency visas and labour cards, but all too often employers add a clause to contracts stating that employees who leave within a certain time are liable to reimburse them. If an employee signs the contract and agrees to these terms, then they are enforceable, despite the Labour Law. The costs would have to be paid when the employee leaves the company. In this case, however, Dh12,000 is far more than the visa would cost to arrange. This is unreasonable and I would suggest contacting the Ministry of Labour as it might suggest that the company only charge what it has actually paid in terms of your visa cost.

I work on a part-time basis in Abu Dhabi and have been employed by the company for just over two years. My work hours are very flexible. So far, I have not asked for a return airfare, any medical insurance or holiday pay. I am paid for the time that I work and I work an average of 15 hours per week. Am I entitled to any gratuity when I leave my job? There are a number of people in the same situation as me at work and our manager is now asking us to sign a document to say that we will not make any claim on them for airfares, holiday pay or gratuity. I don't want to sign unless their request is in accordance with the UAE Labour Law. DE Abu Dhabi

DE is sponsored by her husband and has a labour card from her employer, as well as a basic contract of employment. All workers are eligible for an end-of-service gratuity payment, unless they sign correspondence waiving their right to it. Part-time employees are not exempt and the end-of-service gratuity is based on their average income. Where the employer is offering membership of a savings plan that is to the employee's benefit, you will often find that this is an alternative to the standard gratuity. The employer cannot refuse to pay a gratuity just because someone works part-time. An employer cannot force an employee to sign a waiver document. While specific agreements can be made, it would be far more reasonable for this to be agreed at the outset, not a couple of years down the line. There is no legal requirement to provide airfares for someone employed in the UAE, but even part-time employees are entitled to holiday pay and statutory holidays with pay. All employees with an Abu Dhabi residency visa must be provided with medical insurance by the employer, unless the employee already has cover, such as being on a husband's policy.

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