'My employer banned holidays in December. How can we be compensated for lost leave?'

The Dubai employee says the company does not let staff carry leave forward to the 2020 allowance

Lots of people working late. Employees seen as silhouettes against their brightly lit offices with large windows. Building lit by the "blue hour" evening sky. Getty Images

My company was very busy at the end of last year so no one was allowed to take any holiday last month even though some staff members have not taken all the days they were entitled to for 2019. The company doesn't usually allow people to carry days forward to the next calendar year and we haven't been offered any money either. What is our legal position in this situation? It is a mainland company. PA, Dubai

All employees are entitled to take annual leave as set out in Article 75 of UAE Labour Law. This states: “The worker shall be entitled during every year of service an annual leave of no less than the following periods: a — Two days for each month should the period of service of the worker be of at least six months and a year at most. b — 30 days for each year should the period of service of the worker exceed one year.” Although an employer has the right to decide when an employee can take annual leave, per Article 76, they must not prevent an employee from taking leave that they are entitled to.

In such a situation, employers should allow their staff to carry days forward as that would be a fair way to proceed. At the very least, the employee must receive payment in lieu. This is clearly stated in Article 78 of the law: “Should the work circumstances require that the worker work during his total annual leave or a part thereof, and should the leave during which the worker worked is not carried forward to the next year, the employer must pay the worker the wage thereof, in addition to a leave allowance for the days of work, equal to his basic wage.”

If an employer fails to comply with the law, and behave fairly, employees can register a case with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation which will be upheld as this is a clear breach of rights and the law.

I have worked for my company since 2015 and my second visa expired in July 2019. However, my new visa has still not been completed and stamped in my passport because of some financial issues my company is facing, even though I had the visa medical. I decided to look for another job and have finally secured a new role, but who is responsible for my overstay fines? It is the company's fault for delaying completing my visa. KM, Abu Dhabi

Taking five months to organise a visa is an inordinate amount of time and the company should have sorted this out in a timely manner. Failure to organise a visa renewal means an employer is breaking UAE law. This also puts an employee in a precarious legal position, as it invalidates driving licences and car insurance, causes problems with banks and limits protection under the UAE’s employment laws. An employer can face a fine of up to Dh50,000 for employing someone without a visa, an amount significantly more than the cost of renewal.

If the employer is paying a salary but failed to renew a visa, then they are liable to pay the relevant fines. I suggest that as KM plans to resign, he files a case against the employer as otherwise he could find himself personally liable for the fines after his service ends. Fines can quickly add up as, after the 30-day grace period once a visa has expired, there is a fine of Dh125 for the first day and Dh25 for each subsequent day. After six months of overstaying, this increases to Dh50 a day.

I have worked for a free zone company in Dubai for the past 18 months and my contract is unlimited. It was stated in our original labour contract that the company would provide a yearly ticket allowance when an employee completes one year of service. Yesterday, they sent a memo stating that the yearly ticket allowance will be changed to every two years of employment. In this memorandum, the company stated that this supersedes all the information and policies disseminated previously. Is it legal to just change some terms which are stated in the signed contract by sending a memorandum in this way? LM, Dubai

No employer is permitted to change the terms of a contract of employment without the employee’s permission, so your management cannot just send a memorandum to staff withdrawing a significant benefit in this way. No changes should ever be made to a contract of employment without the employee’s agreement and such arbitrary changes mean the employer is in breach of contract by violating terms. This is the case in free zones as well as in mainland companies.

The employer needs to be made aware that they cannot do this. If they persist, a complaint can be made to the free zone itself and most have some kind of arbitration facility for disputes.

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