'Can my employer sack me while I am on annual leave?'

Under the UAE labour law, it is not permitted to dismiss employees when they are on holiday

Termination of employment document
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I was on annual leave and not in the UAE when I received an email from my boss saying that my contract was being terminated. You can imagine that this ruined my holiday.

I work for a branch office that is being closed later in the year and a number of staff are leaving soon. The email was sent on February 15 and says that I have 30 days’ notice as per my contract.

I returned to work on February 28 so that does not leave me much time to find a new job. Is it fair for one's contract to be terminated when on leave? TS, Dubai

Not only is it unkind to send an employee a notice of termination when they are on leave, but it is also against UAE labour law.

Article 35 of the new labour law states: “If either party to the employment contract wishes to terminate the contract in accordance with the provisions of this Decree-Law and its Implementing Regulation, while the worker is on leave, the validity of the notice period agreed upon in the employment contract shall not begin, except from the day following the day scheduled for the worker’s return from leave, unless both parties agree otherwise.”

This means, assuming TS returned to work on February 28, the start of the 30-day notice period is March 1, the next working day.

He must be paid in full for the month of March and any end-of-service gratuity that is due must also be calculated to the end of the month.

I came to Abu Dhabi one month ago but due to personal issues, I want to return to India. The company is processing my employment visa and I have been told that if I leave, they have to cancel my visa.

The HR person told me that the visa cost the company Dh3,000 and I can’t just leave. Do I have to pay this money back to them? NM, Abu Dhabi

Not only is it rather unkind to send an employee a notice of termination when they are on leave, but it is also against the UAE labour law
Keren Bobker, senior partner with Holborn Assets

The rules about resigning during a probation period have changed under the new UAE labour law, which came into effect on February 2, 2022.

NM must provide the employer with formal notice of his resignation in accordance with Article 9 of the law, section 4, which states: “If the foreign worker wishes to terminate the employment contract during the probationary period, to leave the State, he shall notify the employer of the same in writing not less than fourteen (14) days from the date specified for the termination of the contract.”

It is important to note that if NM returns to the UAE to work within three months of the date of leaving the country, his new employer is obliged to compensate the original employer for the recruitment costs.

The employee is not responsible for any cost of recruitment and employers cannot request that an individual pays for this, so NM does not have to pay any fees.

If proper notice of resignation is not provided, the law states that the individual can receive an employment ban of one year.

I worked for a large company and resigned at the end of February after being employed for three and a half months.

The employer has not paid me my salary for February. Do they have the right to withhold my salary? What can I do about it? MA, Sharjah

No employer is entitled to withhold a salary. If somebody has resigned and is working their notice period, they must be paid as normal. They are also entitled to their full salary during the notice period and should be paid in full for all days of employment on their last day with a company.

If an employer fails to pay what is due, the employee should contact the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) to register a case against the company. Contact can be by telephone on 800 60 or via the chat function on the website.

If MA is the only employee at his company who has not received his salary, it could be personal and he has every right to take action to ensure he is paid in a timely manner.

The first step is to ask the employer for immediate payment, telling them that he is aware of the law. If they still fail to pay the salary, he can register a case against the company.

The MoHRE issued a recent decree outlining new penalties for employers who do not pay their staff on time. Salaries must largely be paid through the Wage Protection System so they are monitored and reminders will be sent on the third and 10th day after the due date of missed payments.

Failure to pay will result in fines and suspension of new work permits.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner at 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: March 06, 2022, 5:00 AM