'Can I work in the UAE on a visit visa?'

The Ethiopian wants to take on a short-term role to work at an exhibition in Dubai

ABU DHABI,  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , OCTOBER 6 – 2019 :- Delegates during the 26th World Road Congress exhibition held at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center in Abu Dhabi. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Patrick
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I worked in the UAE for more than four years before leaving the company and the country a year ago. I recently returned on a tourist visa and saw a vacancy to work at an exhibition for four days. I went for the interview and the organiser asked if I could work on a visit visa. Can I do this? The company is based in the UK, so the employer cannot apply for a visa for me as he is also on a visit visa. HY, Ethiopia 

The law in the UAE is very clear: no one is permitted to work unless they have firstly a residency visa and secondly, a work permit. Even someone setting up their own business must have a visa. Individuals caught working illegally when on a visit visa can be fined up to Dh50,000 and deported. Any company who employs someone on a visit visa can also be heavily fined.

The person offering this temporary role is technically not permitted to work in the UAE but there can be exemptions for those exhibiting at recognised shows.

To clarify, HY is not legally permitted to undertake any work in the UAE and the organiser can only employ someone with a residency visa from a licensed agency in the UAE.

I have been offered a job working for a company in Sharjah. I am currently on a visit visa and would like to know more about UAE Law number 127 because my company has this in the contract. Will this affect me? RS, Sharjah

RS is referring to Article 127 of UAE Labour Law, which says: “Should the work entrusted to the worker enable him to meet the clients of the employer or know the business secrets thereof, the employer may require from the worker not to compete with him or participate in any competing project upon the termination of the contract. For the validity of such agreement, the worker shall be 21 years old at least upon the conclusion thereof, and the agreement shall be limited, with regards to time, place and type of work, to the extent necessary for the protection of the legal interests of the employer.”

An employer can choose to include this clause in a contract of employment, and it is common, but there are limitations. There is an expectation that such clauses are relevant to employees in senior positions, who are party to corporate information, not just applied to anyone in a misguided effort to stop staff leaving a job and moving on in their career.

In addition, the clause has time limitations and would not be expected to be for longer than six months. Any claim for longer is unlikely to be upheld, doubly so for non-management roles. Such clauses must be specific in relation to geographical scope and the actual role. The onus is also on the employer to prove to a court they will suffer an actual financial loss should the employee work for another company and an employer has to go to court to enforce the clause for which there is a cost.

Too often I see employers trying to mis-use this non compete clause as a way of retaining staff, even where it is really not relevant.

I want advice on a salary deduction my company is planning to do. My employer said they are having some economic challenges at the moment so they want to remove my Dh1,000 transportation allowance. Can they legally do this? What if I do not agree to this adjustment? Can they terminate my contract? FO, Dubai

No employer is allowed to arbitrarily change terms in a contract of employment without the agreement of the employee. To be realistic, however, if a company genuinely has financial problems and needs to cut overheads to survive, there is the risk of redundancy. There are times when an employee might be better off agreeing to a reduction in salary or allowances, at least for an agreed period of time, to retain a job. If it is for a specific period, always get this in writing.

In this situation, if an employee does not accept such a reduction and is then terminated, they would have grounds for arbitrary dismissal. This is covered in Article 122 of UAE Labour Law which states: “The termination of the employment of the worker by the employer shall be deemed arbitrary should the cause of termination not be related to the work”. If it is agreed that FO was dismissed arbitrarily, she could receive compensation of up to three months’ salary.

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