On the right road for legal driving overseas

Questions answered on international licences, pregnancy leave and employers holding employee passports.

I have been resident in Dubai for several years and have a UAE driving licence. I appear to have lost my original UK licence, but as I plan to travel overseas later this year I want to organise an international driving permit. I have previously done this in the UK, but obviously cannot do so now. What I would like to know is if there is any place that I can do this in Dubai to save the hassle of having to sort this out in the UK.

HC, Dubai You can obtain an international driving permit at any Emirates Post office. You simply complete an application form and submit this with your valid UAE driving licence, two passport-sized photos plus a copy of your passport and residence visa. There is a charge of Dh140 per application. Further details of the scheme and information regarding the location of the branches can be found on its website at www.emiratespost.co.ae.

I have been working for a company in Abu Dhabi for just a few months, but I am not happy here and want to take up a job offer from a company in Muscat, Oman, which seems a lot better for me. I am in possession of my passport and want to go directly to Oman, but what are the implications of me doing this? Will I be banned from working in the UAE and will that affect me in Oman? Would I have an issue coming to the UAE on a tourist visa if I wanted to visit?

CN Abu Dhabi Depending on where you are working, you are likely to receive a labour ban for a six-month period that would affect you taking up new employment in the UAE, but this will not prevent you from working in Oman as they have a different system that is separate from the UAE. Furthermore, there is nothing to prevent you visiting the UAE on a visit/tourist visa subject to the standard rules.

I have a full-time job, but am now six months' pregnant. I have been with the company for a little over two years. I am in good health and all seems to be progressing well, so I am planning to take only limited maternity leave and want to return to work afterwards. I work for a fairly small company and as they have never had a pregnant employee before, my boss knows nothing about any rights or benefits I may be entitled to. Could you please let me know what the laws are so I can provide evidence to him? The company isn't being difficult, but only wants to offer me what it has to, by UAE law. JG Dubai

Firstly, let me offer my congratulations. Under UAE labour law, a working woman is entitled to maternity leave of 45 days, with full pay, which includes the periods before and after the delivery, provided she has worked continuously for the same company for not less than one year. The same maternity leave is granted with half pay if the woman has not completed one year of service. At the end of the maternity leave, a working woman has the right to extend her maternity leave for a maximum period of an additional 10 days, but this would be without any pay. This unpaid leave can be continuous or interrupted, provided the interruption is caused by illness, which prevents her from coming to work. The illness must be confirmed by a certified government physician licensed by the relevant health authority. Maternity leave in either of the above cases is not deducted from any other leave that a female employee is entitled to. Furthermore, the law states that during the 18 months following delivery, a female employee who nurses her child has the right to take two daily intervals (breaks), not exceeding 30 minutes each, for the sole purpose of nursing her child. These additional intervals are considered part of her working hours and no deduction in wages may be made for this. There is currently no provision for paternity leave under the law, nor is it expected to be introduced.

I have read a number of articles that state it is against both UAE and international law for a company to retain an employee's passport, but my employer is now asking all workers to give them their passports for "safe-keeping". Even though a number of staff have protested, the managing director is insisting that they be kept in the company safe to which only he and the other directors have access. Surely this is not allowed, but what can we do about it?

KV Abu Dhabi While the question of retaining the passport of employees is not specifically mentioned in the labour law, this issue is frequently raised and it has been confirmed by numerous legal experts versed in such issues that this action is illegal. In April 2009, Yousuf Abdulghani, the executive director of policies and strategy at the Ministry of Labour, publicly stated that "the retention of workers' passports by employers was illegal" and that the ministry takes such transgressions of the law seriously. He went on to state "the Government will not tolerate companies that withhold passports". The UAE has signed up to the International Labour Organisation's Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour, under which the retention of workers' passports is a violation of the agreement. If your employer insists, I suggest you remind them of the UAE law, or you may wish to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour. The ministry helpline number is 800 665. Readers may also like to note that retaining a passport for a security deposit, or similar purpose, is also illegal.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at keren@holbornassets.com Letters can also be sent to onyourside@thenational.ae