‘Can my employer deny bereavement leave and hold my passport?’

UAE law permits three days of compassionate leave for a parent’s death while it is illegal for employers retain an employee’s travel document

UAE law allows employees to take three days of compassionate leave in case of the death of a parent. Getty Images
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Question: My father died last month and I asked my company for leave as I wanted to go home to grieve and attend his funeral. However, they did not permit this.

They hold my passport, so I could not leave even if I wanted to. I begged them to let me go home for a few days but the answer was no.

I then decided to resign because I could not focus due to my grief.

After that, our company auditor checked my transactions and said I needed to pay Dh42,000 ($11,436) due to void transactions. I work as a cashier in a supermarket.

When I questioned this, they said it was about company losses and that I could pay Dh10,000 instead. However, they did not show me any proof.

They said I had to pay this amount for my visa to be cancelled. I don’t have money to pay my employer and do not intend to do so because I did not make any mistakes.

New UAE labour laws come into effect

New UAE labour laws come into effect

I am not the only person this has been done to.

All I want is to go home to my family, but the company is making it hard. What action can I take to fix my situation? ME, Dubai

Answer: Firstly, my condolences for your loss.

Your employer has broken the UAE law in several ways. No employer is permitted to retain the passport of any employee. That has always been the case and the country's laws are clear on this matter.

UAE law permits a period of three days of compassionate leave in case of the death of a parent.

Employers are also not allowed to pass on any charges to employees for leaving their jobs.

A company cannot arbitrarily fine a member of staff, and it is highly suspect that this one is making a claim after the employee resigned.

The UAE labour law states the specific circumstance in which any deduction can be made.

Article 25, which covers cases of deduction or amounts to be withheld from a worker’s wage, says: “No amount may be deducted or withheld from the worker’s wage except in the following cases.”

The article goes on to lists a number of circumstances, all of which include limitations.

There are two relevant clauses here. The first is clause F on “amounts deducted from the worker due to violations he commits, according to the regulation of penalties in force at the establishment and approved by the ministry, provided that they shall not exceed 5 per cent of the wage”.

The second, clause H, says: “Amounts necessary to rectify the damage caused by the worker, as a result of his mistake or violation of the employer’s instructions, which led to the destruction, demolition or loss of tools, machines, products or materials owned by the employer, provided that the deducted amounts do not exceed the wage of five days per month. It is not permissible to deduct an amount greater than that except with the approval of the competent court.”

It is clear that this company cannot demand these payments under any circumstances.

ME should contact the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation to register a case against this company for numerous transgressions. The ministry can be contacted via several channels, including through its website.

Q: I have a credit card with a limit of Dh15,000 from a UAE bank. I spent the full amount but cannot pay back what I owe due to various reasons.

What would the bank do if I left the UAE to go to another country in the GCC or Europe?

Would I be chased by Interpol? Please guide me. AI, Dubai

A: If anyone borrows money, such as on a credit card, they are both legally and morally bound to repay what they owe.

UAE banks are strict about debt repayment because so many people fail to repay their dues.

AI has not explained what his reasons are, but he needs to come to an arrangement with the bank to repay what he owes.

The debt will not just disappear. Any monthly repayment is better than none, but only making the minimum payment on a credit card will not reduce the total outstanding as only interest is paid.

AI should speak to the bank about converting this debt into a personal loan with repayments that are manageable.

He should not use a credit card again to build up debt that he cannot afford to repay.

If someone leaves the UAE with an unpaid debt, the bank can request a travel ban via the courts. This means that if AI tries to re-enter the Emirates later, he would be detained on arrival.

Right now, that does not extend across the GCC but this situation may change in the future with the expansion of visa-free access across the region.

A bank can also engage debt collectors in other countries to chase a creditor.

Interpol is concerned with international criminal activities and while that includes crimes of a financial nature, it is not interested in small debt on the part of individuals.

It is important to note that a credit card limit is not there just to be spent. It is an amount that must be repaid, and on which a high rate of interest is payable.

Credit cards can be a useful tool but should never be used to supplement an income or lifestyle.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 30 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: November 05, 2023, 5:00 AM