'Can I get company compensation for flights I didn't take?'

The Dubai resident wants to know if she can get cash instead of her entitlement of yearly tickets home after resigning

The Dubai resident was on an unlimited employment contract and working for a mainland company in the emirate. Photo: Getty Images
The Dubai resident was on an unlimited employment contract and working for a mainland company in the emirate. Photo: Getty Images

I am employed by a company in Dubai and the contract states I am entitled to a flight to my home country every year. I submitted my resignation upon completing two years and eight months of service. I understand I am not entitled to a repatriation ticket because I will be joining another company, but I am looking to get compensation for the flight tickets I was entitled to for years one and two. I was not given a ticket or cash and I took holidays to other places other than my home country. Would I be able to claim compensation for the cost of the flights that I did not take? LP, Dubai

Whether LP is able to claim compensation for the flights depends on the exact wording in her employment contract. Many contracts are specific about flights, in that they are only for travel to a home country, whereas others will allow travel anywhere provided the cost is no higher. As is the case with annual leave, there is no legal entitlement for days to be carried forward and often it is ‘use it or lose it’.

LP should have checked this issue at the time, as well as the precise contract wording or staff handbook, as few employers will make payment in lieu for flights that should have been taken in the past. There is no legal obligation for the employer to make such a payment if an employee does not make a claim at the relevant time.

I run a business in Jafza (Jebel Ali Free Zone Area) and was recently sent a letter, on official-looking letterhead, from an organisation called UAE Register of Commerce. All our business information was shown on there correctly and it said that we hadn’t paid our annual premium and the invoice they had sent us was outstanding. This is the first I had heard of this and we haven’t been sent any invoice or received anything in the past. The amount they are asking is in US dollars, in the amount of $1,177 (Dh4,103). We don’t want to get in trouble, so can you tell us if this is a real organisation and if we have to pay this bill? FM, Dubai

FM sent me a copy of this letter and it does look rather official and is on a letterhead in UAE colours. This is a scam, though, and the giveaway signs are that they are requesting payment in US dollars, as the UAE Government would only ask for payments in UAE dirhams, and at the bottom of the letter there is an address in Germany.

The bank details are not for a UAE bank, although this is harder to spot, but all UAE bank IBANs start AE and this starts DE. The letter refers recipients to a website which looks like it could be real until you get to the contact page which is for an address and phone number in Germany. The UAE authorities do not usually send official correspondence by standard post. Instead communication is usually electronic these days and contact details will always be in the UAE.

There seems to be a significant increase in scammers targeting the UAE in the past few months and many of their approaches look realistic at first glance. It pays to be cautious and check whether any requests for money or personal information are genuine. Dubai residents can report cybercrimes via the Dubai Police website or app.

I left the UAE last year but I still have an outstanding debt of Dh47,000 on a loan and a credit card. I haven’t made any payments since December 2017 when I left. I would like to know if there will be a problem if I transit through Dubai or Abu Dhabi airport. Can they arrest me in the airport even if I don’t enter the country but stay at the airport for hours before my next flight as this is my cheapest option? BG, Pakistan

Anyone who has an outstanding police case registered for debt should be flagged on the UAE immigration computer system which means that they will be detained upon entering the country. BG has not mentioned a police case, but once three months’ repayments are missed most banks will go down the route of registering a police case against an individual.

In theory, if you are simply in transit then you will not enter the UAE or go through immigration, but if a flight is delayed you may be permitted to exit the airport or asked to go through the relevant process, which could lead to an arrest for non-payment of the outstanding debt. Until monies owed are repaid, there will always be a risk of arrest when travelling through the UAE.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 25 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

Published: August 31, 2019 08:00 AM


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