I have been working for a company for about three years and recently submitted my resignation. My job is to manage and organise stock but I am not a manager and do not make any decisions for the company.
I am serving my two months’ notice as required by my contract, which is unlimited, but the owner now insists that I sign a non-compete and non-disclosure letter that she says should be part of my contract. She says they will not cancel my visa or pay me if I do not sign the document and will also apply for a labour ban to be imposed on me.
The company has never mentioned this before and everything was fine until the owner, who we hardly saw, became involved. Can the company force me to sign this before I leave? LC, Abu Dhabi
are a number of issues to address here. Firstly, employers are not permitted to change the terms of a contract of employment, provided the original contract complies with the UAE Labour Law. If they wish to make changes to the contract, it can only be done if the employee agrees.
This means that it is not permitted to add in a clause, such as a non-compete clause, at this stage to benefit the employer and potentially disadvantage the employee.
Article 127 of the UAE Labour Law states: “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 ... 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.” Given LC’s role in the company, this is not relevant to their situation.
This clause is intended to prevent employees who are party to sensitive corporate information from using it elsewhere, not to stop people from changing jobs, and is not relevant for junior employees. For such a clause to be applied, the employer would have to go to court to make a case against any worker. In this case, they would have no chance of winning, so it is an unfair threat.
The employer cannot apply for a ban in this case as LC has given notice under the contract terms, has not absconded and has been with the employer for about three years. There must be a proper reason for a ban to be requested and that is not the case here; it is another empty threat.
Under UAE law, an employer must pay any money owed to the employee and cancel the visa in a timely manner. They should not delay or demand the acceptance of additional work-related clauses.
This employer’s demands and threats are illegal and LC should register a case against them with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation by contacting their helpline on 800 60.
It has come to my attention that a business near to where I live is not operating within the law. I know that they make their staff work very long hours, for up to 12 hours a day and sometimes seven days a week, keep their passports and are always late in paying their salaries.
The staff are afraid of the owner and are shouted at if they complain or ask for their salary on time. Is there a way that they can make a complaint without giving their names, or can I do this for them? For my own reasons, I cannot be too involved but I want to help. TW, Dubai
It is always disappointing to read about businesses that treat their employees in this manner. The working hours and retention of employee passports are illegal under UAE law. There are also rules in place about the payment of salaries that come under the Wages Protection System.
The best option is to contact Al Ameen, a service set up by Dubai Police in 2003 that allows residents and visitors to make anonymous reports and complaints about a range of issues.
I understand it was designed to assist with the reporting of serious crimes but it can also assist with any issue in which the UAE law is being broken.
You can call Al Ameen toll-free on 800 4888 or email your complaint to email@example.com. They can also be contacted via various social media channels. All enquiries are treated in confidence and the identity of the complainant is not released to any third party or to the employer, in this case.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 25 years’ experience. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE
The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only