‘Can a UAE company cut our housing allowances when we get married?’

If you sign an employment contract that states remuneration will be reduced if you wed, it is enforceable

Some companies tend to withdraw an employee's housing allowance if their spouse also receives a similar benefit. Photo: Getty Images
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My partner and I both have jobs in the UAE and our salary packages include housing allowances from our respective companies. I am in construction and my partner is a teacher.

We recently read our work contracts and it seems that when we marry, my partner’s company requires us to complete a form to declare if her spouse is receiving a housing allowance. The reason is a bit unclear but we are under the impression that this is to stop us both from receiving a housing allowance.

Are there any laws or rules regarding housing allowances in the UAE? Or is this just a rule specific to a particular company? The problem is that the size of the pay cut is quite large and would affect our standard of living. Can a company cut benefits because someone gets married? FM, Abu Dhabi

I have come across this situation a number of times and it is not uncommon, particularly in the field of education. A housing allowance is part of a salary package and people take on a job based on the full package value.

It seems very outmoded these days to want to reduce a salary package if someone marries, but there are still plenty of contracts around with these terms.

If someone signs a contract of employment that states that remuneration will be reduced in this situation, they have accepted the terms and it is enforceable. It is usually only the accommodation allowance that is withdrawn if the spouse also receives a similar allowance.

This demonstrates the importance of reading contracts thoroughly before signing them and requesting clarity at the outset as few employers will amend such terms at a later date.

I recently went for an interview at a hotel that was holding an open day for new staff for various roles. One of the roles would have been perfect for me. I am qualified and experienced, but was very disappointed when all the applicants from one nationality were asked to stay and job seekers from another nationality were told to leave.

For the number of jobs advertised, this cannot be just a coincidence. What is the law in the UAE about discrimination? KS, Dubai

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has issued a number of circulars reiterating that companies should not circulate job advertisements that specify gender, race or ethnicity

I checked this claim and noticed that this hotel has advertised various vacancies specifying nationality. This is not permitted, nor is discriminating against race or nationality.

The UAE has anti-discrimination legislation, specifically Federal Decree Law No. 2 of 2015 On Combating Discrimination and Hatred and this applies to everyone with very few exceptions.

This legislation specifically prohibits all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, belief, sect, faith, creed, race, colour or ethnic origin. The law covers both written and oral communication in broad terms.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) has also issued a number of circulars reiterating that companies should not circulate job advertisements that specify gender, race or ethnicity.

The penalties for breaking this law are substantial and stated in Article 6: “Any person, who commits any act of discrimination of any form by any means of expression or by any other means, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a period not less than five years, and by a fine not less than Dh500,000 and not exceeding Dh1 million or either one of these two penalties.”

It should also be noted that the wording of the legislation means that any representative of a company practising discriminatory behaviour can be held liable, not just the company itself, if they are aware of such practices.

If KS has suffered discrimination from this hotel, he can register a case with the MoHRE. Anyone who sees any examples of discrimination can also do the same.

My parents lived in the UAE for about 12 years. My father lost his job last year and has since left the UAE as he could not find another job. He has an outstanding personal loan that he will repay when he has the money to do so, but has not paid anything for six months.

I have been offered a job in Dubai and plan to move there but am concerned that I could be held responsible for my father's debt. Will this be a problem if I am in the UAE? FH, Germany

My understanding is that the outstanding debts are in FH’s father’s sole name and so he is the person who is legally responsible for them. Only the person who has borrowed the money, or both parties if a debt is in joint names, has liability for the repayments. Another party is only responsible if they have stood as a guarantor for a loan, but that that is not a common situation in the UAE.

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