Ask the Law: Non-competition clause signed by worker under 21 years not valid

Non-competition clause signed by worker under 21 years not valid

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I have been working in a company for two years and I am 19 now. When I joined the company, it made me and my father sign a non-competition clause for two years. My unlimited labour contract, which was amended last year, includes the non-competition clause and is going to expire in June 2017. One month ago, I submitted my resignation but my company is saying that I can’t work with another company due to the non-competition clause signed with the company. My employer also mentioned that he would ask the Ministry of Labour to impose a one-year ban on me. When I told my employer that the non-competition clause which I signed is illegal because I am under the age prescribed by the Ministry of Labour, my employer said the agreement is legal because it was signed by me and my father. Is this true? can the company impose the ban on me?

I would like to clarify to the questioner that Article No. 127 of the Federal Labour Law No. 8 of 1980 states the following: “Where the work assigned to a worker allows him to become acquainted with the employer’s client or to become familiar with the secrets of his business, the employer may require him to refrain, after the termination of his contract, from competing with him or participating in any enterprise competing with his own. Such agreement shall be valid only on condition that the worker is at least 21 years of age at the time of its conclusion (and) that the agreement is limited, as regards the time, place and nature of the business, to the extent necessary to safeguard the employer’s lawful interest.” Therefore, the competition clause, which the questioner has signed, is invalid and not considered on the basis that according to the above article, the worker shall be at least 21 years of age. Finally, the father’s signature along with the questioner’s signature in the non-competition clause agreement does not make such an agreement legal as per the UAE Labour Law.

 

Unpaid salary

I have worked in a company in Dubai for one-and-a-half years under a contract for a limited period. The company has not paid my salary for more than three months and I submitted my resignation for the same reason. I also lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Labour to claim my labour rights plus overdue salary. The complaint is pending before the ministry. In the meantime, my sponsor also filed a counter complaint against me in the ministry asking the ministry to impose a one-year ban on me for the reason that I am the one who broke the contract before its expiry date. He said he is also going to ask the ministry to force me to pay 45 days’ salary as damages to him. The Ministry of Labour has said my complaint would be transferred to the labour court soon since we have not reached any amicable solution. My question here is: Can I claim a compensation from my company due to non-payment of my salary? I was using my credit card to cover my family’s daily expenses. Can I transfer to a new company without any problem from my employer? Can I ask the Ministry of Labour to provide me with a temporary work permit until my case is settled?

I would like to clarify to the questioner that resignation because of non-payment of the worker’s salaries is deemed as arbitrary dismissal, according to the Dubai Cassation Court, and the employer shall compensate the worker based on the court decision. Therefore, the questioner shall ask the employer for compensation for the arbitrary dismissal along with the other labour rights and overdue salary. As for the question on the transfer of sponsorship as per the ministry (Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation), if the worker has failed to get his salary for more than two months, the ministry will transfer his sponsorship to new company or he will be provided with a temporary work permit for six months, which can be extended to another six months till his case is settled by the labour court. Then, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation will decide on the case as per the court’s judgement.

 

Liabilities after ownership change

I have been working in a company for more than three years. Two months ago, the owner sold the company and its contents to another person and he has not paid me my salary for three months. He had promised to give me my end-of-service gratuity for the period of the years I have worked with him. Unfortunately, he refused to pay this and I have come to know that he is now out of the country. I am still working with the same company but with new owner. The new employer says I need to claim my pending salary plus my three years’ gratuity from my old employer. My question is: Who is liable for my overdue salary as well as end-of-service gratuity — the previous employer or the new employer? As per my new employer, he is responsible for my salary and end-of-service gratuity from the day he purchased the company as per the UAE Labour Law. Does any mutual agreement make any difference if both the new employer and old employer had decided that the new employer would pay my all pending salary and gratuity?

I would like to mention that Article 126 of Federal Labour Law No. 8 of 1980 states: “Where a change occurs in the form or legal status of an establishment, contracts of employment that are valid at the time of the change shall remain in force between the new employer and the workers of the establishment, and their service shall be deemed to be continuous. Both the original employer and the new employer shall be jointly liable for a period of six months for the discharge of any obligations resulting from contracts of employment during the period preceding the change. After the expiry of this period, the new employer shall solely bear liability.” As per the above-mentioned article, the mutual agreement between the previous employer and the new employer in this regard will be considered null and as it is against the UAE Labour law.

— Questions are answered by lawyer Mohammad Ebrahim Al Shaiba of Al Shaiba Advocates and Legal Consultants

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