‘Will I face a ban if I switch jobs before completing my probation?’

Employees could face an employment ban if they leave part way through a fixed-term contract

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: N/A. Stock. A UAE visa in a passport. Monday, August 31st, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

I am a surgeon and moved to Dubai to take up a position in a hospital four months ago. My probation period is six months.

I am not happy in this role and now have a better job offer from another hospital. But a friend told me that I could get a ban if I move jobs so quickly.

I signed a limited employment contract, so I may have to pay my employer. Will there be any other costs or can I get around the ban? TW, Abu Dhabi

There can be an employment ban if someone leaves employment part way through a fixed-term contract, but not in all cases.

The situation is different for certain professionals and this is covered in Ministerial Order 13 of 1991, which is titled "The organisation of the transfer of sponsorships of non-national labours and the rules governing the same".

Article 2 states: “Non-national labourers may be allowed to transfer one job to another and hence transfer their sponsorship if they fall under the following categories”, which include “doctors, pharmacists and male and female nurses”.

TW is on a limited contract, as is the case with most medical staff, and even if he gives notice in accordance with contract terms, he can still be penalised for breaking his contract.

This is set out in Article 116 of the UAE Labour Law: “Should the contract be rescinded by the worker … the worker shall be bound to compensate the employer for the loss incurred thereto by reason of the rescission of the contract, provided that the amount of compensation does not exceed the wage of half a month for the period of three months, or for the remaining period of the contract, whichever is shorter, unless otherwise stipulated in the contract.”

A UAE driving licence is only legally valid if the individual has a UAE residency visa. This is the case even if the licence has not expired
Keren Bobker, senior partner, Holborn Assets

The only cost to TW on changing employment is this penalty. The employer cannot ask him to pay any additional amounts such as the cost of his visa.

I have a valid UAE driving licence and am currently in the country on a visit visa. Can I drive my friend’s car, which is a Dubai registered vehicle? HM, Dubai

A UAE driving licence is only legally valid if the individual has a UAE residency visa. This is the case even if the licence has not expired.

In this situation, as HM does not have a UAE residency visa, he cannot drive his friend’s car.

I recently received a job offer by letter from a large company in Dubai. As I am coming from Turkey, I will enter the UAE on a visit visa and the company said that I need to start work the week after I arrive.

The company said that it will start processing my employment visa once I start work. Is it legal to accept the proposal to work on a visit visa and wait to get my employment visa processed? Will I get paid without the work visa in my passport? KE, Turkey

It is not legal for anyone to undertake employment on a visit or tourist visa but the situation is slightly different if an employer has already submitted a formal application for a residency visa.

A company cannot start the full visa application process or arrange for the medical test until a new employee is in the country. So, it is not unusual for someone to be working while the visa application is in process.

I must stress that the employer should have filed an application and submitted paperwork to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation by the time an employee starts working so that the completion is only a formality.

There is an informal grace period for the paperwork to be finalised, but an employer must have all the documents in hand.

This does not mean the employer can delay before applying for the visa as records can be checked easily. The visa process should only take a couple of weeks in most cases.

Under no circumstances is an employer permitted to employ someone without a residency visa and work permit and apply for these later, such as after a probationary period, as a way of potentially saving money.

If in doubt, an employee should ask for evidence of the submitted application.

“Working without first obtaining the proper visa status is illegal and could lead to imprisonment, fines and/or deportation. The penalties apply to both the employer and the employee,” the official website of the UAE government says.

Both the employer and employee can be fined Dh50,000 and the employer can have issues obtaining future visas for employees.

All employees should be paid for every day of work that they undertake even if the visa application is in process.

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

Updated: November 13, 2021, 5:00 AM