Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 October 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: UAE employers must pay housing allowance to laid off staff, judge warns

Abdulla Al Nuaimi, head of the Abu Dhabi Labour Court, said new legislation would help protect employees

Salary cuts during the Covid-19 outbreak will not affect the end of service gratuity according to the Ministry of Human Resources and ‎Emiratisation‎. Getty Images
Salary cuts during the Covid-19 outbreak will not affect the end of service gratuity according to the Ministry of Human Resources and ‎Emiratisation‎. Getty Images

A senior judge has warned UAE companies must continue to pay staff their housing allowance if they are made redundant.

Abdulla Al Nuaimi, head of the Abu Dhabi Labour Court, reiterated that federal legislation brought in late last month guaranteed workers their rent would be covered if they lost their jobs.

The ruling is designed to prevent tenants facing an uncertain financial future being evicted by their landlords.

He urged anyone who had been laid off and denied the allowance, or anyone who was forced out of housing provided by their employer, to contact their local court.

This is a material development and will act as a disincentive for employers when considering whether to reduce headcount

Al Tamimi & Co

“Normally, all labour issues go through the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiritisation first before they reach us,” said Mr Al Nuaimi.

But he said the situation was now considered "an urgent matter and they can come to us directly.”

“A person can file his complaint and it gets registered immediately and referred to a judge,” he said.

“Since the beginning of the crisis we have received around 400 cases.”

The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a major impact on global markets, with clear repercussions for employment.

In the Emirates, the authorities have introduced a range of measures aimed at helping residents cope with the challenges that could lie ahead.

Mr Al Nuaimi said that since the country’s courts had begun operating remotely, cases were being submitted online and verdicts delivered by email, telephone or even WhatsApp.

Urgent submissions could be dealt with in just 24-hours, ensuring evicted tenants were returned to their homes promptly.

In a briefing note last month, Dubai law firm Al Tamimi & Co said the "significant" development had implications for any business considering laying off staff.

"The resolution provides that the employer must continue to provide the outgoing employees’ housing and all of their entitlements (save for their basic salary) until the earlier of the individual exiting the UAE or obtaining the necessary authorisation to work for another establishment," it read.

"This is a material development and will act as a disincentive for employers when considering whether to reduce headcount."

Lawyer Yousef Al Bahar, of Al Bahar and Associates, said the legal penalties of failing to pay laid off workers their housing allowance had yet to be determined.

But he said he expected further measures to protect the country’s workforce soon.

“The new resolution protects the rights of workers [given] the current situation,” he said.

“The government has also issued other procedures to ease the pressure on companies by lifting some fees and fines until the crisis is over.”

Updated: June 18, 2020 12:04 PM

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