‘Can a company deny paying me for freelance work?’

If a person works without a valid visa, they are breaking the UAE Labour Law and cannot take action against the employer

A person cannot be employed without a visa. If they do not have a valid residency visa, it must be provided by the employer. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation
An embedded image that relates to this article

Question: Soon after I moved to the UAE, I took on some work as a freelancer. I don’t have a contract with the company, but they said they would pay me an agreed amount and that if everything went well, there would be a permanent role with a visa and benefits.

I thought this was a good plan as I could earn some money and check out the company over a few weeks before committing to the job.

I worked for the company for just three weeks and then left as I didn’t like the culture.

I didn't give them any notice, but I had done quite a bit of specialised work for them. They are now refusing to pay me even though I was told they liked my work and I worked for about 120 hours.

Despite numerous emails and text messages to the HR manager, they have just given me excuses for the delay. Now they are ignoring me.

New UAE labour laws come into effect

New UAE labour laws come into effect

As there wasn't a contract, I am at a loss as to what I can do, but I don't want to give up as I am owed for work done. How do I get the money I am owed? RC, Dubai

Answer: In this situation, RC has few options as she was working without having a residency visa. Both she and the employer have been breaking the UAE Labour Law.

A person cannot be employed without a visa. If they do not have a valid residency visa, whether a freelance visa, one from their own business, sponsored by a family member or a golden visa, it must be provided by the employer.

The employer must also provide a work permit in all cases. RC was on a visit visa and no one can undertake any work on a visit visa.

When taking on an employee, a company is supposed to have applied for a visa by the time the person starts work and there should be an official contract that is lodged with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation that confirms the start date of employment and the salary payable. If in a free zone, the equivalent applies.

It is also a requirement that an employee should give notice on leaving any employment.

As RC does not have her own visa, she is unable to undertake contract work in this way.

Without a proper contract of any sort, an employment visa or even an application for one, and no freelance or trade licence, RC was not working legally, so she is not in a position to take any action against the employer.

It is not fair that a person isn’t paid for work undertaken but I suspect the company is aware of the legal position and is taking advantage of this. A harsh lesson learned.

Q: My current salary is Dh12,500 ($3,403) per month. However, my contract states just Dh9,000 and that hasn’t been changed to show my higher salary after I was promoted.

I have given my notice in writing. It is a small company and doesn’t have a HR department, so the owner needs to work out my gratuity.

I have been with the company for four years and my salary has increased twice.

The owner is saying that he needs to use the different salaries for each period to work out what I am due, but I thought that the current salary is the relevant one.

Can you confirm so I can claim what I am owed? SH, Sharjah

A: SH is correct in their belief that the current salary is the figure that needs to be used when calculating the end-of-service benefit.

The UAE Labour Law covers this in Article (51) End-of-Service Benefits for Full-Time Workers. Clause 5 states: “Without prejudice to the legislation regarding the granting of pensions or retirement benefits to workers in some establishments, the end-of-service benefits shall be calculated according to the last basic wage the worker was entitled to, with respect to those who receive their wages on a monthly, weekly or daily basis and according to the average daily wage stipulated in the provisions hereof for those who receive their wages on a piecework basis.”

SH is entitled to the end-of-service gratuity on their basic salary of Dh12,500 no matter what any contract says.

The salary paid each month will be evidence of this and unless there is any paperwork that states that the additional amount is an allowance, it will be deemed basic salary.

At the time of any salary increase, or any change to terms of employment, it is sensible to request confirmation in writing, ideally signed by both employer and employee, confirming the details to avoid any future confusion or dispute.

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: January 01, 2024, 4:00 AM