Jul 1, 2014

Dubai worker resigns and wants to go home but company ‘won’t return passport’

Dubai worker resigns and wants to go home but company ‘won’t return passport’

I am working as a shift manager in a fast food chain in Dubai and am still in the probationary period. I have decided to resign because I feel I was mistreated by my superior and the HR office told me I have to pay 45 days’ total salary as per Labour Law. I have read that an employee does not have to pay costs if they leave, so I think my employer is wrong. The company has taken my labour card, Emirates Identity card and cancelled my medical insurance. They are also holding my passport even though I have not been working for three weeks. I need to know what my rights are as I just want to return to my country as soon as possible. SC, Dubai

While it is correct that an employee should not be asked to repay any costs related to their employment such as the labour card, residency visa or recruitment costs, it transpired that Ms C had been employed on a two-year fixed contract. Article 16 of UAE Labour Law states that “if the contract has been terminated on part of the employee … the employee becomes liable for compensating the employer against losses incurred by him in consequence of contract termination, provided that the amount of compensation may not exceed half a month’s pay for a period of three months or for the remaining period of the contract, whichever is shorter, unless the terms of the contract provide otherwise”. As she broke the terms of the contract, a penalty is payable to the employer. I suspect the employer is holding the passport until the penalty is paid before returning it. This is something of a grey area legally, but I doubt Ms C would get very far with the ministry, as it appears she owes the company money. A lesson to be learnt is to always read a contract thoroughly before signing it. Note also that an employee’s medical insurance should remain valid until such time as they have completed their 30-day notice period.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 20 years of 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. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate independent legal advice

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