'Can my employer sack me for being pregnant?'

The Dubai employee discovered she was expecting her second child during her probation period

The UAE resident discovered she was pregnant six weeks after starting a new job. The National
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I started a new job in September then found out I was pregnant six weeks later. This was an unplanned but happy accident even if the timing is bad. I already have one child and a very good live-in helper and I didn't think it would be a big problem as it is a large company and my job is sedentary. I thought it was best to be honest so three weeks ago I informed my manager. All seemed OK then last week I was told that my position was not being made permanent and I could leave any time before the end of my probation period. Can the company do this? Is it legal to sack me because I am pregnant? SV, Dubai

SV has confirmed she works for a mainland employer so UAE Labour Law applies in this case. Although the timing may seem questionable and related to the pregnancy, the employer has not acted illegally. Any employer has the right to terminate employment at any stage during the probation period without giving an explanation. This is covered in Article 37 of the law which states: "The worker may be employed for a probation period not exceeding six months where the employer may terminate the services of the worker without notification or end of service gratuity."  It is not acceptable to make someone redundant simply because they are pregnant but no reason is required during the probation period.

I entered a contract with a company located in Jumeirah Lakes Towers in February. As per the contract, I was supposed to provide three days of service every month and raise an invoice at the end of the month. This would then be cleared by the client within one month from the date of issue. I was never paid from the beginning and now they have asked me to stop service and yet no payment has been made. They keep on postponing the payment date. Can I take legal action? If so, what is the procedure? KL, Dubai

I am surprised KL continued to work for a company for over six months despite none of her invoices being paid. She is now owed a significant sum and as legal action is required to recover the monies owed, I sought comment from Bianca Gracias, legal counsel at Suits & Advisors. She advised: “The process for recovery would depend on the terms of the contract, in particular the governing law and jurisdiction clause.

"If this jurisdiction clause does not exist, it would be by default the laws of the UAE and disputes would be referred to the Dubai Courts. Depending on the sum currently outstanding, KL should be aware that fees at Dubai Courts fees are approximately 6 per cent of the claim value subject to the claim amount not being less than Dh20,000.

"Translation and lawyer fees would be additional. The process would need to commence by legal notice through the public notary and can take anywhere from six months to a couple of years depending on claim amount, complexity and rebuttals from the counterparty. In conclusion, it is advisable to start the debt recovery process sooner rather than later for practical reasons rather than legal consequences.”

I understand the total owed is in excess of Dh20,000. A claim of lower than this amount cannot be brought before Dubai Courts so the options are more limited. It is advisable not to leave a situation so long before taking action.

I own a company in Saif zone in Sharjah. The trade licence is valid until September next year. I am a Canadian citizen holding a UAE residence visa, which expired on October 3. I am out of UAE now and would like to cancel the residency visa. Can I do this from overseas? SM, Canada

Although residency visas expire, none are cancelled automatically so if not renewed they must be cancelled to avoid future issues on re-entering the UAE. Assuming the business is still trading, there should be management staff or a PRO who can liaise with the free zone to arrange this. Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF) has its own procedures and anyone working for a free zone company, even as a business owner, is technically sponsored by the free zone itself. The Saif website, www.saif-zone.com contains useful guidance and the forms required for a residency visa's cancellation.

A visa can be cancelled if an individual is outside of the UAE and while the original passport is not required, the original Emirates Identity Card is, so SM will have to send that to the company. Ordinarily an individual should be outside the UAE for six months for a visa to be cancelled but it can also be done if a residency visa has expired. The cost varies, but I understand the fee for cancellation of a residency visa without a passport but with an Emirates ID card is Dh900.

Note that the trade licence must also be properly cancelled if the business is ceasing to trade.

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