Our maid has been with us for four years. She is now requesting four years' worth of gratuity money although she is not leaving the country yet. She says she needs a large sum for some kind of work at home in India. We are on good terms and want to help her, but are not sure what the law says about a gratuity payment to domestic staff as we have been told different things. We want to pay at least the amount legally required out of goodwill, so could you clarify please? WS, Dubai
The end of service gratuity is an allowance paid on leaving service to employees who are covered under UAE Labour Law, Federal law No 8 of 1980, and the relevant updates and amendments. Article 3 of this law states that the provisions of this law do not apply to several categories of employee and this includes ‘domestic servants in private households and similar occupations'. This means that someone employed as a maid is not legally entitled to receive a gratuity on ceasing employment and indeed, no employee has an entitlement to receive such a payment part way through their employment.
There have been laws enacted this year to protect the interests of domestic staff in respect of hours of work and paid holiday, but this makes no mention of any end of service payment. While not obligatory, it is not uncommon for employers of domestic staff to make such a payment on a voluntary basis when someone leaves service.
I began a three-year contract in September 2016 but was very unhappy with my working conditions so I left the UAE in December 2016 without informing my employer. I contacted them by email when I was in my home country. I want to find out what type of ban I was given and for how long. I don't wish to return to work in the UAE but I would like to be able to make a transit flight through the UAE. How I could find out more information? LC, Ireland
Anyone who leaves a job without giving notice in this way is breaking the terms of their contract; if they simply leave the country they will be marked as an absconder. An employer will advise the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) of the circumstances when the employment visa is cancelled and the individual will receive an employment ban. This is covered in Article 128 of UAE Labour Law which states: "Should the non-national worker leave work without a valid cause prior to the end of the contract with definite term, he may not get another employment even with the permission of the employer for a year from the date of abandonment of the work. No employer may knowingly recruit the worker or retain in his service during such period.” A person who absconds can be permanently blacklisted and thus unable to work in the UAE again. Individual confirmation can be obtained by contacting MoHRE with the passport number and they will be able to confirm the duration of any ban.
Note that this is an employment ban and individuals may be able to enter the UAE again, but are not likely to be granted an employment visa. Transiting, however, should not be an issue as this is not the same as entering the country, as an individual does not pass through passport control.
I joined a company one month ago. I wasn't comfortable with the job and I chose to quit after explaining to my employer. The employer accepted this and agreed to cancel the visa. I have now been informed by MoHRE that if I don't spend six months in the job they will give me a ban. Can I still work for a free zone company with that ban? Or does it mean I just have to leave UAE and go back home? AM, Abu Dhabi
Anyone who leaves a job within six months of starting it can receive an employment ban. Those on unlimited contracts of employment, however, that give the proper notice and are employed in positions that are in categories one to three, will not have a ban applied. It is not the same for people in categories four and five, or those on a fixed-term contract. They will receive an employment ban that means that will not be able to obtain another employment visa in the UAE, and thus work, until such time as the ban has expired, usually six months. The only exception is if someone is employed in a free zone and they move to another job within the same free zone as this would not require a change of sponsor, as the free zone itself is the sponsor in that situation, therefore AM will receive a ban unless he moves to a new job within the same free zone.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 20 years’ experience. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE.
The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.