Can a UAE employer recover recruitment costs from an employee?

On your side: Can a UAE employer recover recruitment costs from an employee? Our resident consumer advocate Keren Bobker tells us the answer.

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I took a job with a locally-based company six months ago and just resigned as my husband is being located back to the US and naturally I am going with him. I was employed via a recruitment agency and now my employer is saying that although I have given three months' written notice as specified in my contract, they will not pay me for the last two of those months as I have to repay them for the cost of recruiting me. I have never heard of such a thing and although I have asked the owner for this in writing he isn't giving me anything and I certainly have no recollection of agreeing to this. Where do I stand legally on this issue? SZ Abu Dhabi

Authorities in the UAE have publicly stated on many occasions that an employer cannot recover recruitment costs from an employee. Ministerial order 52 of 1989, Article 6, makes it quite clear that anyone seeking a job cannot be charged a fee nor can an employer ask an employee to cover this expense, even if they do leave sooner than expected. Likewise no employee should be asked to pay for their residency visa or labour card. In this situation, SZ should tell her employer that she is aware of the law and that she is entitled to be paid for the full notice period and that this applies whether she is required to go to work or not throughout this time. If the employer fails to comply with the law, she should open a case against them at the Ministry of Labour, which will be sympathetic to her situation. The employer may like to note that as they are breaking the law they are likely to lose the case, have to pay the salary due and will be liable for costs, so it will end up costing them more.

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