‘Can I make my staff pay visa costs if they break their contracts early?’

It is illegal for employers to make their employees pay for recruitment expenses

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I have a small business and am about to hire two more employees. The visa costs are quite high and I am worried that if they leave before working for two years, it is going to be expensive for me. Is there a way that I can protect my business by getting the new employees to sign papers that say they will pay part of the visa costs if they quit less than 12 months into their contract? AP, Abu Dhabi

While I understand that visa expenses can be significant for small businesses, it is illegal for companies to ask employees to reimburse them for any costs incurred in employing them. This is covered in Ministerial Order 52 of 1989, Article 6a, which makes it clear that the employer is “responsible for the recruited labourer, the bearing of his recruitment expenses” and that this cannot be passed on.

To ask any employee to sign documentation that contravenes government orders and the UAE Labour Law is illegal, and the employee has the right to register a complaint against a company that follows this course of action.

A better legal option is to have a rigorous and robust recruitment process in place to ensure that no mistakes are made, employees are happy and will not want to leave the company. An employer can provide a fixed-term contract, where if the employee decides to leave before the end of the contract term, a penalty is payable. However, this can only be for a set calculation. In addition, the employer must be aware that if they terminate employment, they must also pay a penalty to the employee.

I will finish my employment contract at the end of December and have completed two contracts, each spanning two years. I plan to return to the Philippines and not work in the UAE again. I have asked my employer to pay for my repatriation ticket, but he says it is too expensive and does not want to foot the bill. I want to leave, but how do I make my employer pay for my ticket? MV, Sharjah

The employer is liable to pay the repatriation costs of an employee who finishes a contract and decides to return to their home country. This is set out in Article 131 of the UAE Labour Law: “The employer shall, upon the termination of the contract, bear the expenses of repatriation of the worker to the location from which he is hired, or to any other location agreed upon between the parties. Should the worker, upon the termination of the contract, be employed by another employer, the latter shall be liable for the repatriation expenses of the worker upon the end of his service.”

It is not optional for a mainland employer to pay this cost. While some flights may be expensive right now, that is unfortunate and the employee should not be disadvantaged or delayed because of this reason.

The employer is liable to pay the repatriation costs of an employee who finishes a contract and decides to return to their home country

If the employer refuses to pay for the flight ticket that MV is entitled to, she will need to file a case against them with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. They can be contacted on 800 65 or via the chat function on their website.

My parents are due to travel to Dubai soon to visit us for New Year. They have just told us that their passports are only valid for five months. I was told by a friend that people need six months' passport validity to enter the UAE, but that sometimes three months' validity is also acceptable. Will my parents be able to travel here without having to renew their passports? TB, Dubai

As is the case with most other countries, the UAE requires visitors to have a passport with a validity of at least six months upon entry. Without that, a person is unlikely to be permitted to check in for the flight as airlines have initial responsibility, and they can be fined if they allow someone to board an airplane without the correct documentation.

There can sometimes be exemptions for compassionate reasons, but not for a holiday. TB’s parents will need to arrange new passports before flying to the UAE. This is as stated on both the UK and UAE government websites.

For expatriates with UAE residency visas who wish to enter the UAE, the minimum passport validity required is three months.

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