I want to leave my company but they are playing hardball

Should I have the police or a lawyer present when it is is time to terminate my contract? Keren Bobker says the answer is not simple.

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I was offered a job by a private company in Dubai that is not in a free zone with a salary of Dh12,000 per month. I have been here for almost three months, my probation is six months, and the contract is indefinite. The company paid for my flight, two weeks’ hotel and visa. The company deducted the hotel from my first salary. I asked finance what I would have to pay if I had to leave in six months, and was told I would have to pay Dh2,000 for the visa, Dh23,000 for the air ticket , and Dh1,000 towards accommodation costs. They said I must give notice even during my probationary period. I am willing to wait until February, which is the end of my probationary period, but I will not be accepting confirmation of employment from this company. I am not worried about leaving, my only caveat is that I do not trust the HR department to give the authorities my passport, nor do I believe the company will agree to cancel my visa immediately, even though I was advised by the DNRD [Dubai’s Department of Naturalisation and Residency] that they can cancel my visa within one day. Should I have the local police or a lawyer present when it is time to terminate my contract? TE Dubai

There are a number of issues here that are of concern. It is quite clear under the UAE’s labour law that an employee should not pay for the visa. The law is vague about notice periods during probationary periods, but it is generally agreed that 30 days’ notice is still required and an individual on an unlimited contract may resign at any time. The employer is also bound by contract terms and UAE labour legislation and this will protect the employee. The employer is liable for repatriation costs too. A visa can be cancelled in the space of a day and an employer must not hold on to a passport for any longer than is necessary. If there are concerns, I recommend contacting the Ministry of Labour for advice on 800 665. If someone believes their employer will cause difficulties when resigning, it may be a good idea to have another party present, preferably someone with some influence and who understands the legal system.

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