‘Can I be forced to work overtime on my days off?’

The UAE's labour law stipulates that all employees should have at least one full day of rest each week

Buero, Business, Muenchen, Bayern, Deutschland. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation
An embedded image that relates to this article

Question: My company has been forcing me to work overtime on my days off and if I refuse, action will be taken against me.

I don’t remember that I agreed to work overtime on my days off in my contract. But let’s say that I did agree and, if so, can my company still force me to work overtime on my off days against my will? How should I be paid? SZ, Dubai

Answer: When a person works overtime, strict rules apply and it is added to the standard working day.

It is not standard practice for a person to be expected to work on mandated days of rest. All employees should have at least one full day of rest each week as set out in Article 21 of the UAE labour law.

“The worker shall be granted a paid weekend of not less than one day, according to the employment contract or the work regulation. It is permissible under a resolution of the Cabinet to increase the weekend day stipulated in this Article,” the law says.

If a person works non-standard hours, as SZ does, the provisions in the law regarding the maximum hours they may work each week, 48 in most cases, still apply.

This is as stated in Article 17 of the labour law: “If the worker works based on a pattern other than the full-time pattern, the original employer, or any other employer for which the worker works in accordance with the provisions hereof, may not ask the worker to work for it more than the hours agreed upon in the employment contract, except with the written consent of the worker.”

SZ will need to check his contract of employment to confirm his working hours and agreed working pattern.

Provided he does not exceed the maximum standard working hours, is paid for overtime and has a full rest day, it may be that he should work on additional rest days if he has agreed to such terms.

If an employee refuses to comply with agreed contract terms, they should first receive warnings, and can be terminated for failing to fulfil their duties.

Article 19 of the labour law states the provisions for working additional hours as follows: “1. The employer may instruct the worker to work overtime over the normal working hours, provided that they do not exceed two hours per day. The worker may not be instructed to work for more than that period, except in accordance with the conditions and rules specified by the Implementing Regulation hereof. In all cases, the total working hours shall not exceed 144 hours every three weeks.

“2. If the work conditions necessitate that the worker works for more than the normal working hours, the excess period shall represent overtime, for which the worker shall receive a wage equal to the wage corresponding to the normal working hours, which is calculated according to the basic wage plus an increase of not less than 25 per cent of that wage.”

The law also states: “If the circumstances require that the worker works on the weekend specified in the employment contract or work regulation, he shall be compensated with another day or he shall be paid the wage of that day according to the wage established for normal working days, plus an increase of not less than 50 per cent of the basic wage for that day.”

Working on a specified day off qualifies under this condition.

UAE labour law applies to companies in the UAE in the private sector, but most others follow the law in the best interest of their employees.

New UAE labour laws come into effect

New UAE labour laws come into effect

Q: I run a Dubai-based travel agency offering outgoing tour services.

I have a local customer that is also a travel agency offering the service to non-resident customers.

Can I charge 5 per cent VAT on my service (for example, a hotel booking outside the UAE) to the local travel agency or is it considered a zero-rated sale? KA, Dubai

A: VAT and UAE taxation is a specialist topic, so I sought a response from Gemma Nye, manager of Go Figure Accountancy in Dubai.

She said: “In this situation, you are a UAE VAT-registered business offering a service to another UAE-based travel agency. In this case, the service you provide is located within the UAE, therefore a taxable supply for which you should charge VAT at 5 per cent.”

I always recommend that companies employ an accountant experienced in VAT issues to obtain personal advice.

This is always money well spent for both peace of mind and the avoidance of penalties for any breaches of local law.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 30 years’ of 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: July 30, 2023, 5:00 AM