'Is it illegal for a manager to verbally abuse employees?'

Under the new labour law, harassment and bullying is illegal in the workplace and can be reported to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation

It is illegal for managers or employers to harass or bully employees in the workplace. Getty
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I have been with my company for three years. A new manager joined last year and it is clear that he does not like some of the employees. We have been on the receiving end of racist abuse, sexist suggestions and he shouts at us for no reason. This was a good place to work but now we are upset every day.

Finding a new job is not easy, so is there anything we can do to make him stop? CB, Abu Dhabi

Such behaviour in the workplace is unprofessional and unacceptable. A company of any reasonable size should have a company handbook that details procedures to handle this type of problem.

If a company does not have a handbook, the first step is to approach the manager’s immediate superior with details of the situation. No company should permit such behaviour and it is forbidden under the new UAE Labour Law, which came into effect on February 2, 2022.

Article 14 of the new law states: “Sexual harassment, bullying or any verbal, physical or psychological violence committed against the worker by the employer, his superiors at work, colleagues or the persons who work with him are prohibited.”

In addition, Article 4 of the law, which covers equality and discrimination, says: “Any discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, national or social origin or disability, which would have the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or prejudicing equal treatment in the employment, the maintenance of a job and the enjoyment of its benefits is prohibited.”

It is possible that the manager is unaware that his behaviour is illegal, but he should be made to understand that there are legal consequences. The information here can be passed on, or left for people to see.

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It is possible that the manager is unaware that his behaviour is illegal, but he should be made to understand that there are legal consequences
Keren Bobker

Firstly, CB and colleagues need to keep a record of all the harassment and bullying, documenting the specifics of each incident and the date. This can also be used to register a complaint in the workplace. Senior management or the owner should not permit such behaviour.

If there are no changes in the manager's behaviour or the company does not act, there are options. Legal advice can be sought, or CB can register a case with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

I have signed a basic offer letter for a job with a new company but I am now having doubts about changing jobs, especially as I think I want to leave the UAE this year. If I have signed the offer letter to say I will start with them on April 1, am I able to withdraw from the agreement?

I have not signed an actual contract or legal paperwork for a visa application and have heard nothing since I sent them an email with the letter attached last week. SP, Al Ain

The official employment process in the private sector includes an employee being sent a formal job offer by the company. It should contain all the important and relevant details of the job, together with a document that summarises the main points of the UAE labour law.

I consider this second document to be particularly relevant at this time due to the new changes in the employment law. Both parties must sign these documents.

In accordance with labour reforms from a few years ago, an offer letter made to a foreign worker is legally binding after it has been signed by both parties. It then becomes a legal contract and will be stored on the database of the ministry.

Government guidance states that both the offer letter and the annex that details the labour law must be signed and the onus is on the employer to ensure all employees fully understand the terms.

If only the offer letter has been issued, SP could argue that it is not binding without the annex, but given the situation, I recommend he approaches the employer with honesty.

He should state that he would like to withdraw, in part as he plans to leave the country this year and would then have to resign.

It is unlikely that a company would want to undertake the effort and cost of hiring a new employee only for them to resign a few months later, so will be amenable to withdrawing the offer.

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: March 13, 2022, 5:00 AM