I am a Muslim woman living in Sharjah. I was divorced two years ago. The Sharia court ruled in my favour to keep my 12-year-old daughter in my custody in addition to a monthly alimony and accommodation allowance. Two months ago, I married another man and he is currently living with us. My previous husband discovered the matter and then asked me to waive his daughter’s custody amicably since I had married, as he may take his daughter as per Sharia. My question is whether he really has the right to take his daughter from me? My daughter cannot leave me. May I ask the court to make her choose either to remain with me or with her father? Please advise me what I shall do if he files a case against me before the Sharia court, as I do not have my family in the UAE. In case I ask my current husband to divorce me, shall I keep the custody of my daughter again?

The questioner’s husband has the right to request the Sharia court to revoke the custody of his daughter in the event the divorcee remarries, because Sharia observes the interests of the children. Therefore, the questioner might lose custody of her daughter if her divorced husband files a case in the Sharia court. As for the possibility of the questioner retaining custody in the event of getting a divorce from her new husband, in such a case, the questioner may keep custody of her daughter.

On the possibility of approaching the court to ask her daughter whether she prefers to remain in the custody of the mother or father, the court will not respond to this request because minor children often do not know their own interests and, therefore, only the Sharia court which assesses their interests would decide who deserves custody.

Pregnant employees

I am a woman living in Dubai. I want to know about the law for pregnant women employees. How many months of maternity leave a woman is entitled to get? In the offer letter of one of the women, it is mentioned that she can get maternity leave only after serving the company for one year, and that such leave will be unpaid leave or she can take that leave from her annual leave. As per the UAE Labour Law, is the new mother entitled to get a short leave to breastfeed the baby? Will the company have to pay for this maternity leave?

Article 30 of Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 states: “A female worker shall be entitled to maternity leave with full pay for a period of 45 days, including the period preceding and the period following her confinement, on condition that she has been in her employer’s service for a continuous period of not less than one year. If she has not completed the aforesaid period of service, she shall be entitled to maternity leave with half pay.

On the expiry of her maternity leave, a female worker may be absent from her work without pay for a maximum period of 100 consecutive or non-consecutive days if such absence is due to an illness preventing her from resuming her work and if the illness is confirmed by a medical certificate issued by the medical services specified by the competent health authority or if the latter authority confirms that the illness was caused by the women’s work of confinement.”

The leave mentioned in the above two paragraphs shall not be deducted from other periods of leave.

Article 31 of the same law states that “during the 18 months following her confinement a female worker nursing her child shall, in addition to any prescribed rest period, be entitled to two additional breaks each day for this purpose, neither of which shall exceed half an hour.

These two additional breaks shall be reckoned as part of the hours of work and shall not involve any reduction of remuneration.

Finally, the offer letter, which mentioned that the lady employee is not entitled to maternity leave before completing one year in the company and that such leave will be unpaid, will be considered as against the labour law and not applicable.

Questions answered by advocate Mohammad Ebrahim Al Shaiba of Al Shaiba Advocates and Legal Consultants.