‘Can my employer insist I sign a non-compete clause before paying my dues?’

It is not permitted to add such a clause to benefit the employer and to potentially disadvantage the employee

Business woman giving bribe money in a brown envelope while give success the deal to finishing contract agreement, Bribery and corruption concept.
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I have been working for a company for seven years. I resigned on December 9 because my manager is hostile and makes me very uncomfortable.

I am also underpaid and made to do the work of many people single-handedly. My request for a salary increase was ignored.

My visa cancellation has not yet been processed but the company is asking me to sign a non-compete clause. This is not in my existing employment contract.

The company wants me to agree to this clause before they pay my end-of-service benefits. Is this legally permissible? NB, Abu Dhabi

Employers are not permitted to change the terms of a contract of employment without the employee’s agreement. It is not permitted to add a clause, such as a non-compete clause, at this stage to benefit the employer and to potentially disadvantage the employee.

Such clauses can be added to a contract of employment in accordance with Article 127 of the UAE Labour Law, which states: “Should the work entrusted to the worker enable him to meet the clients of the employer or know the business secrets thereof, the employer may require from the worker not to compete with him or participate in any competing project upon the termination of the contract for the validity of such agreement … and the agreement shall be limited, with regards to time, place and type of work, to the extent necessary for the protection of the legal interests of the employer.”

This particular clause is intended to prevent employees who are party to sensitive corporate information from using it elsewhere and not to stop them from changing jobs. It is not relevant to all employees.

For such a clause to be applied, the employer would have to go to court to make a case against any individual employee. In this case, the employer would have no chance of winning as the clause was not part of the employment contract. This is most often an empty and unfair threat from an employer.

In this case, the company can neither force NB to sign a change to a contract, especially after he handed in his resignation, nor can it legally withhold any benefits.

Employers are not permitted to change the terms of a contract of employment without the employee’s agreement
Keren Bobker, senior partner, Holborn Assets

If the employer persists with this illegal action, NB should raise a case against them with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, either by telephone on 800 60 or through their online chat function.

The new employment laws that will come into effect on February 2, 2022, make reference to prohibiting harassment, bullying or any verbal, physical or mental violence against employees.

I am currently facing a problem in my apartment. In July last year, I realised that the maintenance company had generated a cooling bill that was exactly the same amount as the previous month.

I doubted this bill was correct because my AC consumption is low. When I contacted the company, they identified a fault in my meter and replaced it in October.

However, I was charged a uniform chiller fee of Dh688.35 from April to September. The company argued that chiller consumption is high during summer and it considered a high market average rate to generate my bill.

I explained that our AC usage is low, we use fans in the house and are out all day.

What is the legal position on such approximation and adjustment? Is this allowed? HS, Dubai

As this is a legal query, I approached Muhammad Ali Qureshi, partner at Nasser Malalla Legal Consultants, who said: “It appears that customers of certain service providers have complained of excessive billing in the past. The reason for this could be the customers’ lack of knowledge of their legal rights under the agreement signed with the service provider.

“An unhappy customer may question the bills, but we have seen standard answers about the meter being faulty followed by an average bill for that time of the year, which is normally not challenged by the customer.

“The customer never approaches the courts to resolve the issue, since the amounts are usually very small. If the amounts are higher, there is always a possibility that the unsatisfied customer may approach a court to get the dispute resolved.”

It is wise to read the terms and conditions of any agreement thoroughly before signing it.

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: January 01, 2022, 5:00 AM