Motei & Associates

Motei & Associates - Law Firm in Dubai

Motei & Associates – the go-to legal consultants in Dubai that cuts through legal complexities and delivers effective advocacies.

Damac Executive Heights - Office 801
Dubai
United Arab Emirates

Tel:+971 4 435 5959

Email:contact@motei.com

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13 Things You Must Know as an Expat Before Accepting Work in the UAE
13 Things You Must Know as an Expat Before Accepting Work in the UAE
  1. BASIC THINGS THAT AN EXPATRIATE MUST LOOK AT BEFORE ACCEPTING WORKExpatriates should firstly read carefully the offer letter (employment offer) or the initial contract that the employee normally receives prior to starting employment. Secondly, at the time they sign the official Labour Contract (the contract that is registered at the Labour Department), they must ensure the terms in this contract are the same as that of the offer letter.In the event of variances between the two contracts issue, it should be noted that, as per the Labour Law, the terms and conditions most beneficial for the employee are applied.In general, the expatriate must look into the following: Term of employment; salary compensation package details; other conditions such as non competition in the event of termination of employment, non disclosure of information, and other benefits such as medical, housing, transportation.
  2. THE RIGHTS OF THE EMPLOYEE DURING THE PROBATION PERIODThe probation period is similar to the engagement period between two parties before embarking on a long-term commitment. It can be up to six months. It is not permissible to engage an employee on probation more than once for the same employer. During the probation period, an employee may be dismissed for any reason without receiving any notice or gratuity from the employer. Likewise, during the probationary period, the employee can resign from his employment at any time. When an employee has completed his probation period successfully, it is counted towards his/her overall period of service. Otherwise, the employee is entitled to all other protections afforded under the labour laws.
  3. EMPLOYEES WHO ARE FORCED TO WORK UNDER A VISIT VISAAny employee must have a work permit and it is the employer’s obligation to provide the necessary work permits. Very often, employees on visit visa do not report the employer for not processing their employment visa for fear of termination. However, the employee must understand that their failure to report the situation to the authorities may make them just as culpable of violating labour laws.The UAE Labour Law and ministerial decrees provide substantial forms of protection for employees in the UAE. Any employee has the right to file a complaint at the Labour Department in the Ministry of Labour in relation to any conflict with his employer. Employers can be subject to severe punishment in case of non-compliance with the labour laws. The employee has the right to complain about the organization even though he is working on a visit visa. Any evidence is sufficient to prove that he is working for the organization.
  4. EMPLOYEES WHO ARE FORCED TO WORK UNDER A VISIT VISAAny employee must have a work permit and it is the employer’s obligation to provide the necessary work permits. Very often, employees on visit visa do not report the employer for not processing their employment visa for fear of termination. However, the employee must understand that their failure to report the situation to the authorities may make them just as culpable of violating labour laws.The UAE Labour Law and ministerial decrees provide substantial forms of protection for employees in the UAE. Any employee has the right to file a complaint at the Labour Department in the Ministry of Labour in relation to any conflict with his employer. Employers can be subject to severe punishment in case of non-compliance with the labour laws. The employee has the right to complain about the organization even though he is working on a visit visa. Any evidence is sufficient to prove that he is working for the organization.
  5. EMPLOYERS HOLDING PASSPORTSThe employer cannot hold the passport of any employee. This has been confirmed by a decision rendered by the Court of Cassation. However, in very specific cases, such as positions of trust, employers may keep employees’ passport but can’t forbid them from traveling outside the country.
  6. THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR AN EMPLOYEE TO SPONSOR HIS FAMILYThere is a specific decree that addresses this matter. There are specific professions that are allowed to sponsor not only their family (spouses, children, fathers and mothers) but also their maids. Employees that are allowed to sponsor their family must earn a minimum wage of Dhs4,000 per month if the employer provides accommodation or Dhs5,000 if the employer does not provide accommodation.
  7. THE REMEDIES FOR AN EMPLOYEE IN THE EVENT OF NON-PAYMENT OF WAGESThis is a sensitive issue and the Ministry of Labour is very strict with employers regarding this matter. Any employee has the right to file a complaint before the Labour Department to claim such delay or non-payment of wages by his/her employer. Employers who are in default are subject to severe punishment. In some cases, the Human Rights Departments in the UAE is involved in addition to the Ministry of Labour Inspection Department.
  8. INSTANCES IN WHICH TERMINATION OF CONTRACT BY EMPLOYER IS CONSIDERED TO BE UNJUSTIFIEDThe Labour Law has specified events in which both employer and employee may, solely, terminate the employment contract without any obligation to compensate the other party. These include situations wherein the employee has committed a mistake which has resulted in substantial loss for the employer, violation of work place safety rules, failing to carry out his duties as stipulated in the employment contract, disclosing employer secrets, being convicted of a crime involving honour, honesty or public morals, being found drunk or under the influence of drugs during working hours, or committing a physical assault on his employer or manager or one of his colleagues during work. Or wherein the employer did not fulfill his obligations under either the employment contract or the law. In the event of unjustified termination by either party, the other party can claim compensation for damage sustained as result of such termination.
  9. EMPLOYEES (ESPECIALLY LABOURERS) BEARING THE BRUNT OF LABOUR DISPUTESLabour disputes, in general, can make both parties suffer whether directly or indirectly. However, most of the time, employees (especially labourers) sustain direct losses, being the weaker party. If an employee is wrongly accused, it is an abuse of the system by the employer and the employee must try to defend himself. In many cases the employee cannot afford proper legal counsel in order to defend his position, wherein the employer has the financial resources to pursue a case against the employee. But there are cases in which employers also suffer.It is important to note that the Labour Ministry does take violations by employers very seriously and does take immediate measures to rectify abuse of the system.
  10. ON EMPLOYEES ACCUSED OF ABSCONDINGAbsconding assumes more seriousness because of the legal implications on both parties. Most of those accused of absconding are mid-level to low-skilled employees. Specific ministerial decrees currently govern this issue.
  11. EMPLOYERS EXPLOITING LABOUR LAWS, PARTICULARLY THOSE REALTED TO THE CASE OF ABSCONDINGMost employers do take particular care to comply with the UAE labour laws. Unfortunately, there are a few who abuse the regulation.
  12. ON THE LEGAL SYSTEM BEING TOO EXPENSIVE FOR AN EMPLOYEE WITH A LOW INCOMEThere are no filing fees to file a claim before the Labour Department and the subsequent referral of the matter to the court is free of charge. Lawyers are not permitted to appear before the Labour Department. If a lawyer is engaged for advice or to handle the case before the court, the lawyer’s fees are payable. As far as securing good legal council, that may be an impediment to many employees as legal fees can be too high for low wage earners. In addition, the language barrier also makes it difficult for a low wage employee to properly defend him/herself. We are pleased to advise that as part of the firm’s corporate social responsibility commitment to the society where we live and work, Motei & Associates does set aside a certain number of cases per year that we undertake on a pro bono basis (free of charge) for persons that can’t afford to pay for legal services.
  13. THE AVERAGE TIME PERIOD, IF A CASE GOES INTO A COURT TO GET A VERDICTInitially, a complaint must first be filed with the Labour Department. It normally takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks depending on the complexity of the matter and the availability of the parties to attend the sessions. It is important to note that the role of the Labour Department is that of a mediator and if the Employer and Employee don’t reach an amicable settlement (with the assistance of the labour officer), the matter is referred to court. Cases may either be filed with one or two sections of the Court of First Instance: the Lower Claims Division (claims less than Dhs 100,000) or Higher Claims Division (claims over Dhs 100,000). The average length of time for the court to review a case in the Lower Claims Division is 2-6 months and for the Higher Claims Division approximately 2-4 months. In some cases, an expert is appointed to review the matter and issue a report to the presiding judge, which may increase the time period for a decision to be rendered. Either party may file an appeal of the decision of the Court of First Instance to the Appellate Court.
  14. ON EMPLOYEES, PARTICULARLY EXPATRIATES, WHO ARE NOT AWARE OF LABOUR LAWS AND CONSEQUENTLY THEIR RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONSMany employees are not aware of the labour laws and consequently their rights and obligations, especially newcomers to the country. It is essential for any person who is moving to any new place to find out about the laws that govern his/her legal rights and obligations in the relevant jurisdiction.

About the author:

Ashraf El Motei heads the dispute resolution practice at Motei & Associates, a Dubai based law firm since 2002. Ashraf specializes in commercial and corporate disputes before local courts and international arbitration centers. He is a listed arbitrator at DIAC and registered practitioner before DIFC Courts. For further info on the article, please contact the author at: a.motei@motei.com

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