No matter the circumstances of leaving work, UAE employee not liable for any of employer's costs

I came to Dubai on an employment visa earlier this month but I dislike this company and want to join another. I plan to work for one month and then resign. In my contract it has been stated “Trial Period: six months’ probation period” and “Resignation: In case of your resignation, all costs of repatriation shall be at your own expense”. The contract is open-ended and I have to give one month’s notice of termination. My salary is stated as Dh2,500 per month. How much do I have to pay as repatriation cost and visa expenses and if I get an offer from another company can I work or not? MT, Dubai

There are a few issues to be addressed here. The clause in the contract stating that repatriation is at the individual’s expense is per UAE Labour Law but there is a caveat. Article 131 of the law includes the sentence: “If the cause for termination of contract is attributed to the employee, his repatriation will be arranged at his own expense if he has the means to pay”. If the employee is unable to pay for a flight to a home country, the burden will fall upon the last employer. No matter the circumstances of leaving employment, the employee is not liable for any of the employer’s costs. This is per ministerial order 52 of 1989, Article 6 – so MT will not be liable to repay any costs incurred by the employer. As MT is on an unlimited contract there are no penalties. Whether MT is able to take up employment with another company will depend on the category of his employment. Before the changes in UAE Labour Law that came into effect on January 1, employees had to complete at least a full year of service to avoid a ban, whereas now employees in skill categories one to three, primarily white-collar workers with professional qualifications, can move at almost any time without a ban. The situation is different for workers in skill categories four and five, as they can only move to another employer after completing six months with their current employer or they will receive an employment ban.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 20 years’ experience. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE.

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.

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