'Can my employer terminate my job without a valid reason?'

The bank employee believes she lost her job over a credit card debt with another bank

FILE - In this June 15, 2017, file photo, a customer inserts a credit card to buy gas in Haverhill, Mass. It’s always good to pay off your credit card debt, but now may be a better time than ever to do so. Americans’ debt levels have been creeping back up recently and interest rates are expected to rise soon. That’s a combination that could put consumers in a bind if they’re carrying a balance on their cards. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
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My employer, a bank, terminated my services for no valid reason in February. The termination letter said: "Due to market conditions, we are eliminating your position, and the bank is undergoing organisational restructuring." At the time, I had an ongoing case against another bank over a credit card issue. This started in March 2018 and I advised my employer. Can an employer terminate a staff member if they have an ongoing case in a Dubai court? Due to an email sent by the other bank to my company's HR department, regarding my credit card liability with them, my company removed me from my original post and put me in the back office for almost a year. They then terminated me without a valid reason, in my opinion, as my work performance is satisfactory. Can a lender legally send an email to my employer regarding my personal credit card liability? My employer has nothing to do with my credit card with another bank and because of this email my job was put at risk, even though I had a good track record and had been there for 10 years.

My employer did not allow me to work a notice period, though they have paid me three months' salary for the notice period and one month in lieu of notice. Can I complain about my employer dismissing me illegally? And can I claim for compensation or damage due to arbitrary dismissal as per the Article 123 UAE Labour Law No 8 of 1980? GG, Dubai

There are two issues to address here. One is the termination, the other the ongoing case against the other bank. In respect to the job loss, a termination due to market conditions is a perfectly valid reason to make an employee redundant provided the position is not refilled soon afterwards. Article 123 of Labour Law refers to arbitrary dismissal but this does not fall into this category. Furthermore, the three months’ salary paid to GG is equivalent to the amount that can be claimed even if there was a valid case. Payment has also been paid in lieu of notice, which is acceptable by law. GG has not been dismissed illegally and so does not have any grounds for a claim in this regard.

The topic of one bank notifying another is a different matter. I would not be surprised if GG’s contract of employment included a clause regarding the disclosure of debt issues and any legal cases or issues, as this is standard in financial services to ensure individuals are not open to blackmail or likely to be compromised in any way. This is probably why she was moved to a back-office position. A bank should not generally contact an employer regarding a debt issue, although the code between banks and bank employees can be viewed differently by some. Having financial issues in this way is frowned upon for someone in banking.

I will be leaving the UAE soon to return home and my visa will be cancelled next week. I was hoping to keep my car for a few more weeks but am I still allowed to drive here? Will my driving licence become invalid when my visa is cancelled?  RM, Dubai

A UAE driving licence is not invalidated when a visa is cancelled and it remains valid until the expiry date. The issue however, is actually about insurance. Privately owned vehicles can only be driven by someone with a residency visa and if a visa has been cancelled the insurance can be invalid. RM should contact his insurance company to ask if he will be insured to drive the vehicle. If they agree, then he needs to get confirmation in writing.

Can I sign a new job contract with another company while still serving the three months' notice period from my current employer? The new employer is willing to wait for me to join, but my concern is that my visa from my current employer has not been cancelled yet. NG, Abu Dhabi

It is not unusual for a new employer to ask someone to sign a contract of employment before starting work and this also gives the individual time to read and fully understand what is being offered. If the terms of employment are accepted the new employer will probably be happier about starting the visa process as soon as they can.

I see no real issue in signing a contract ahead of time, but there should be a clause stating this is subject to NG finishing her current role and her residency visa being appropriately cancelled. I also recommend that it states the terms are not binding until a new visa has been applied for so that NG is not bound by the contract until she starts the new role.

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: @FinancialUAE

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only