‘Can I be denied a housing allowance if I’m married?’

This is an unfair policy and enforcing it depends on the terms in the employment contract

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Question: Is it illegal to receive housing benefits because I am married?

This is clearly a discriminatory practice and when I inquired about the policy, I was told that it is a law in the UAE.

I am aware that other married colleagues are paid housing benefits even if their partner receives full benefits.

I am also being paid half of what my colleagues are being paid for the exact same job because I am married.

Is this an issue I can raise with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation? What legal recourse do I have? JM, Abu Dhabi

Answer: There is no law against a married woman, or indeed any married person, receiving a housing allowance. It has never been UAE law.

I have come across a number of situations where an employer has a policy of not paying a housing allowance if the employee’s spouse receives one.

It’s an old-fashioned policy, but whether it can be enforced depends on the terms of the employment contract and what was signed by both parties.

The general view these days is that a housing allowance is part of a salary package and people take on a job based on the full package value, but there are contracts with these terms.

There should be no discrimination if someone is married and the UAE labour law has provision for this.

Article (4) Equality and Non-discrimination states: “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 employment, the maintenance of a job and the enjoyment of its benefits, is prohibited. Employers are prohibited to discriminate against workers in jobs involving similar tasks.”

The slightly grey area here is that the law usually refers to salary and not allowances, so I suspect the employer may get away with this unfair practice due to the wording used.

They will claim that the salary is the same and that may be upheld, especially if the employee has signed a contract that includes a clause about non-payment of a housing allowance if married.

This demonstrates the importance of reading contracts thoroughly before signing them and requesting clarity at the outset to ensure fair treatment.

There is nothing to stop JM from making a complaint again her employer, especially if she can show that she is being discriminated against.

In the long term, I’d urge her to look for alternative employment with a company that treats its employees more fairly.

New UAE labour laws come into effect

New UAE labour laws come into effect

Q: Is it right for my employer to send me on annual leave after I gave a written notice that I will not be renewing my contract and leaving the company?

I have worked for almost two years without getting annual leave. Whenever I requested days off, the owner refused.

My contract ends in December - what can I do? RN, Dubai

A: This employer has broken the UAE labour law by refusing to allow an employee to take annual leave.

Article 29 of the labour law sets out the rules relating to annual leave. It states: “The worker shall be entitled to an annual leave with full wage of not less than 30 days for each year of extended service.”

Extended service in this context means a period of more than one full year of employment. For any partial years of service, the days of leave are calculated pro-rata.

The article adds: “The worker shall obtain his leave in its entitlement year and the employer may specify the dates of these leaves according to work requirements and in agreement with the worker, or grant them alternately among the establishment’s workers in order to secure its work progress.

“The employer shall notify the worker of the specified date for his leave within a sufficient time of not less than a month.

“The worker may, with the approval of his employer and in accordance with the applicable regulations at the establishment, carry forward his annual leave balance or days thereof to the following year. The worker shall be entitled to the wage for the period of his annual leave.”

While an employer can refuse annual leave on certain dates or request that it be taken at a certain time, no employer is permitted to refuse all leave.

They are also not permitted to force someone to take leave while serving their notice period.

On leaving this job, RN should be paid in full for all days of leave accrued but not taken.

The UAE law states: “The worker shall be entitled to a wage for the accrued leave days if he quits the work before using them, regardless of the leave duration, with respect to the period for which he did not obtain his leave.”

He should also ensure that he has been paid in full for his leave days and end-of-service benefits before signing cancellation documents.

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: December 03, 2023, 5:00 AM