‘Should my employer pay for my flight home from UAE after sacking me?’

A company is legally required to pay for a flight ticket if an employee plans to leave the Emirates after their termination

Passengers are seen in the duty free area in departure hall at terminal three of Dubai Airports in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 26, 2018. Picture taken December 26, 2018. REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed
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I started working for a company on September 5 last year. However, the company terminated my contract on March 2 this year.

What does the law say about the employer paying for an employee’s flight tickets to the UAE and back to their home country? GG, Dubai

The law has always been clear about the payment of an employee’s repatriation expenses. Both the old and new labour law, which came into effect on February 2, refer to this.

Clause 12 under Article 13 says the employer is responsible for “bearing the repatriation expenses of the worker to his place of recruitment or any other place that both parties had agreed upon, unless he has already joined the service of another employer, or unless the reason for terminating the contract was attributed to the worker, then the latter shall be liable for incurring those expenses”.

As GG's contract was terminated, the employer must pay for a flight to his home country, assuming that he plans to leave the UAE.

However, if he takes another job in the country, he is not eligible for a flight home and the cost of the final flight must be borne by the next employer.

GG was on probation and his contract was terminated on March 2. Under the new Labour Law, the employer is obliged to provide 14 days' notice of termination to an employee in this situation.

An employer can no longer dismiss an employee without notice. This means that GG’s last official date of employment will be 14 days after the notification was served.

My company wants me to sign an undertaking form that includes a clause that says I cannot work for a competitor for two years. However, my employment contract does not state this.

They asked me to sign the document after I resigned and paid my final settlement. Are they legally allowed to do this? HV, Dubai

Employers cannot amend a contract or request a change in terms after an employee has resigned. HV does not need to sign this restrictive and unfair clause.

Such clauses are included in contracts to protect a business and prevent employees from changing employers and misusing confidential information. These clauses are typically directed at senior employees only. They cannot be used simply to prevent employees from leaving or taking on further employment.

The UAE Labour Law sets this out in Article 10, which is about non-competition clauses.

Quote
No employer can amend a contract or request a change in terms after an employee has resigned
Keren Bobker, senior partner at Holborn Assets

It says: “If the work assigned to the worker allows him to gain knowledge of the employer’s clients or have access to its work secrets, the employer may require that the worker under the employment contract shall not, after the expiry of the contract, compete with the employer or be engaged in any competing project in the same sector, provided that the requirement is specified in terms of time, place and type of work, to the extent necessary to protect legitimate business interests. The non-competition period shall not be more than two years from the expiry date of the contract.”

This makes it clear that such clauses should only apply to employees who are party to confidential information. It must also be specific in terms of time frame.

The clause also does not mean that all individuals can be prevented from taking up a new job in a similar sector.

If an employer tries to enforce such a clause unfairly, the employee can challenge it. The onus is on the employer to prove that they are being disadvantaged, rather than trying to make life difficult for a departing employee.

My son has a UAE driving licence and plans to study in France next year. Will his UAE driving licence be valid in France? Or will he have to take another driving test when he reaches France? PC, Dubai

If your son is planning to stay in France for a limited amount of time, he may not need to get a French driving licence as he should be able to drive on his UAE licence for up to a year.

However, it would be wise to apply for an International Driving Permit before he travels as that document is in multiple languages.

He can apply for an IDP at Emirates Post, the Roads and Transport Authority or online at a cost of Dh170.

If he stays in France for longer, then he must apply for a French driving licence at the police headquarters in Paris or at a local prefecture de police. This can take some time, so it is best to apply several months in advance.

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 28, 2022, 5:45 AM
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