‘Can a company sue me if I refuse to accept a job offer?’

An employment offer without a formal contract is an informal agreement and not enforceable by law

A contract must confirm the terms of employment in accordance with the law and be signed by both parties. Getty Images
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Question: I have been thinking about changing my company and then found a new position.

The new company sent me a job offer over email and I replied to say it seemed OK and I would accept when they sent me a contract with all the details in writing.

As I have been at my current company for a few years, I told my manager that I was about to resign but the next day I was offered a promotion and a higher salary. This was as good and it seemed easiest to stay put.

I emailed the other company and told them about the situation as I wanted to be honest. They said that as I had accepted their offer, I had to leave and work for them.

They said I had legally accepted and they would sue me if I did not keep my word. Where do I stand legally? DH, Dubai

Answer: DH has confirmed that both companies have mainland trade licences, so there is no doubt that the full provisions of UAE labour law apply to both.

At the time that DH replied to say he would not be taking up the job offer, he had yet to receive a full offer of employment in the manner that is required by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE).

Article 8 of the UAE labour law, Federal Decree law (33) of 2021, which came into effect in 2022, specifies that a contract must be issued that confirms the terms of employment in accordance with the law and that both parties must receive a copy and, most importantly, sign the same to accept the terms.

A specific format must be used to confirm the details, although additional terms may be agreed as long as they are not to the detriment of the employee.

Taking into consideration the provisions of the law, an offer letter is a formal agreement to accept employment once it has been issued but only if signed in acceptance.

An offer of employment by email, which does not include a contract or formal terms, is only an informal agreement and should not be enforceable by law.

A signed contract is enforceable but it was not issued to DH, let alone signed.

DH is not obliged to change employment in this situation and no company can force anyone to work for them.

This is supported by Article (14) of the labour law, which states: “The employer shall not use any means that would oblige or force the worker, threaten him with any penalty to work for it or compel him to undertake work or provide a service against his will.”

Watch: New UAE labour laws come into effect

New UAE labour laws come into effect

New UAE labour laws come into effect

Q: I left the UAE to return home in November 2018. I closed my credit cards, paid off my loan and got a letter from the bank saying they were closed and no money was owed.

However, I did not close my salary account. While I can’t log into it, I did not leave more than a few dirhams in there.

Will I have a problem if I travel though the UAE? MA, India

A: It has been a few years since MA left the UAE and if there is no action on a bank account for six months, most banks will mark the account as dormant and there will be no access, either online or in person.

I always recommend that all bank accounts are fully closed on leaving the UAE as there is a risk that fees and charges can accumulate.

The person can end up owing money, sometimes a significant amount, over a number of years and a potential police case could be filed against them for non-payment of debt.

It may seem logical to assume that the bank might have realised that no accounts were required, but banks do not work like that.

The sensible course of action is for MA to contact the bank and ask them if the account still exists and the present situation.

While he may not be able to login to the online chat, he can call or email the bank. The lender's contact information will be on the website.

To answer the concern about travelling, even if there is an outstanding debt, someone transiting through the UAE does not have to go through immigration, so does not officially enter the country.

Transiting is rarely a problem but there are cases where there are delays and people have had to enter the UAE.

Having a police case in the system would lead to detention on entry.

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 or at www.financialuae.com

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.

Updated: March 24, 2024, 5:00 AM