‘Do I have to pay my employer my visa costs if I resign during probation?’

It is illegal for an employer in the UAE to pass on any costs of employing an individual

Abu Dhabi, September, 25, 2018: Amnesty seekers  at the Tasheel centre at Al Raha Mall in Abu Dhabi. Satish Kumar for the National/ Story by Haneen Dajani
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I started my current job in January and am still on probation, but I want to resign soon because it is a poor environment and my health is starting to suffer.

I know that my employer will ask me to repay the visa costs. In my employment contract, there is a clause which says: “Should the employee resign before the completion of the first 24 months of service, then the employee will be responsible for their own repatriation costs, including relocation of personal effects and costs of cancellation, and will be required to reimburse the employer on a pro-rata basis the cost incurred by the company for the relocation of personal effects.”

They did not pay my flight ticket when I came here and as far as I know, it is illegal to ask to repay the visa costs, especially during probation. I do not want to pay it but do not want to file a case as I think they will give me a hard time. What can I do if they ask me to pay the visa costs upon resignation? WG, Dubai

When someone resigns, even during probation, they still need to give notice as per the contract, usually 30 days. But this contract contains an illegal and unenforceable clause.

Even if the employee signs a contract with these terms, the clause is null and void. An employer is not permitted to pass on any costs of employing an individual and the UAE authorities have made this clear many times.

This is covered in Ministerial Order 52 of 1989, Article 6a, which states that an employer signs official documents when taking on an employee and includes this wording: “An undertaking from the employer to the effect that he shall sponsor and be responsible for the recruited labourer, the bearing of his recruitment expenses and his employment in accordance with the employment contract in a way not prejudicing the provision of the Federal Law No (8)/1980 referred to herein.” Furthermore, these expenses cannot be passed on.

An employer does not have to pay for the cost of the flight for a person moving to the UAE. The sole legal obligation is to pay for the repatriation flight, but only if service is terminated or someone reaches the end of a fixed-term contract and returns to their home country.

This is covered in Article 131 of the UAE Labour Law, which states: “The employer shall, upon termination of the contract, bear the expenses of repatriation of the worker to the location from which he is hired, or to any other location agreed upon between the parties … Should the reason of the termination of the contract be attributable to the worker, the latter shall be repatriated at his own expense should he have the means therefore.”

The employer's sole legal obligation is to pay for the repatriation flight, but only if service is terminated or someone reaches the end of a fixed-term contract and returns to their home country

If any employee is mistreated or asked to pay illegal fees, I would urge them to register a case with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. The system is there to protect employees, to ensure that they are not charged for illegal costs and to stop breaches of the law.

I have a credit card but as my income has been reduced due to Covid-19, I am a month behind on my payments. By the time I make a payment, the next one is due. I have only missed one payment so far, but my bank sends me messages and calls regularly to remind me of the missed payment.

I have told the bank that I will pay the dues as soon as I can. I hope my salary will go back to normal soon but the bank representatives said it wasn't good enough. Can they file a police case against me for missing one payment? SM, Sharjah

If any credit card repayments are missed, then the accountholder is in breach of the contract terms, which he would have signed on the application form, and banks in the UAE take this issue very seriously.

In most cases, banks will chase the customer for non-payment as soon as one repayment is missed and they are generally very persistent. So, the sooner even a partial payment can be made, the better.

A bank cannot register a police case against an individual until three payments have been missed, but they will keep chasing until an account is up-to-date.

People should also be aware that missing even one payment can affect their credit history as late and missed payments are registered at the Al Etihad Credit Bureau. This can impact future requests for loans and credit cards.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 25 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only