‘My employer wants to pay my gratuity in delayed instalments. Is this legal?’

Employers must pay all money owed before an employee signs their visa cancellation papers

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I resigned from my company after working there for eight years. I am owed quite a large sum as my gratuity and was expecting this to be paid when I left the company. However, the owner is asking to pay it over a few months as he claims he does not have the money. Is this legal? What if he does not pay me what I am owed? SN, Dubai

ASN has been working for a mainland company, so UAE Labour Law applies. It is the responsibility of employers to pay all money owed before the employee signs their visa cancellation papers as these confirm that all dues have been paid. An employee is within their rights to request payment in full and should not have to wait.

There is no requirement for employers to set aside funds to pay gratuities, but that would be a sensible course of action to avoid this kind of problem. We are seeing a few cases where employers ask departing employees to accept delayed payments as the business has had financial difficulties but it is, legally speaking, the choice of the worker to accept this.

If an employee is willing to accept delayed payments, it is essential that they obtain the details of when they will be paid in writing. This should be on a signed and stamped document with the company's letterhead that clearly confirms how much will be paid, when and how.

This will provide proof if the employer fails to pay and the person needs to file a case against them with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. Note that a case must be registered within a year of leaving a company.

As documents must be signed to cancel a visa, which also state that payments have been made in full, there is always a risk that the ministry will not uphold a claim.

This is why I do not recommend signing cancellation papers unless the employee has been paid in full.

In this situation, SN can file a civil claim in the UAE courts. However, this is far from ideal and not a course of action that any employee should need to take to receive what is rightly owed.

I have a debt worth Dh12,305.97 with a UAE bank. This is a loan converted from a credit card balance. I have failed to make payments and have been in India since October 2020. I have a valid visa that I paid for myself until September 2022. The bank has now cashed my security cheque for Dh24,500, which has bounced. I want to come back to the UAE in March. How can I do this? BC, India

There are a number of issues to address here. BC has not confirmed in which emirate he is a resident and that will affect how a bounced cheque case is treated. In Dubai, a bounced cheque of this size is not a criminal offence, but it is in the other six emirates. This is going to change as per a UAE government announcement in October 2020, but not until 2022.

A visa should be provided by an employer, a sponsor or arranged alongside a trade licence

If BC is not a Dubai resident, the bounced cheque means the bank can register a criminal case against him, which will mean that he will be detained at immigration on attempting to re-enter the UAE. He can check this with the immigration department of the emirate in which he is resident.

If he is a Dubai resident, I would expect the bank to have registered a police case after he missed three months of repayments and that also leads to detention on entering the country.

Banks will take action to recover money owed to them by anyone who fails to make the loan repayments in breach of the terms they agreed to. BC will need to get in touch with his bank to discuss the matter. If he can reach a resolution, they might be willing to cancel the police case. However, I would expect the bank to request a partial repayment before doing so.

BC stated that he paid for his visa and unless he has a business, this will not be legal. A visa should be provided by an employer, a sponsor or arranged alongside a trade licence.

BC should also note that UAE residence visas become invalid if someone is out of the country for 180 days. They are not cancelled, but if he expects to be out the country for longer, which may well be the case due to the debt issues preventing his return, he needs to speak with the relevant immigration department for advice and approval to return to the UAE.

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