Labour bans are among the most discussed and asked about topics for expatriates working in the UAE.
If your employer is threatening you with a ban, this handy guide could help you find out if he/she is right or if the firm is trying to coerce you into staying.
UAE Labour Law is quite clear when it comes to employee rights and responsibilities. The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) usually initiates labour or residency bans at the request of the concerned employer - which could be in any of these situations.
If you break a limited contract
A limited contract is an employment agreement stipulated by time, and requires renewal on expiry. An employee who signs a limited contract cannot resign or quit, with or without notice before this term finishes.
The employer, in this case, can request for a labour ban of up to one year, regardless of whether the employee's residency is sponsored by the employer or not. He or she could also initiate processes to claim compensation (not exceeding 45 days' salary) if loss or damage resulting from the resignation can be proven.
After a 2016 resolution, you can now terminate a limited term contract if it has been mutually agreed upon in writing with your employer, and a notice period is also agreed upon (not exceeding 3 months).
If you abscond
Absconding essentially refers to situations where employees don't turn up for work for seven or more consecutive days, or more than twenty non-consecutive days (in one year) without informing the employer (Article 120).
Article 128 also states that in limited contract cases, if absconding has been reported by an employer, the employee cannot work in the country for a year from the time of reporting. No employer is allowed to hire or retain this person legally during this period either.
Employers are given three months' time to report absconding cases and if proven to be true MOHRE could impose a one-year labour and/or immigration ban on the employee. The employee also has a chance to prove he/she wasn't absconding in such cases – this is crucial because once filed, the absconding report cannot be withdrawn even by the employer.
If you fail to serve notice
If you resign and don't serve notice, the employer could request the MOHRE for a labour ban. There are only two situations wherein an employee can resign without notice as per Section 14 of the UAE Labour Law - if the employer has failed to hold up his/her end of the contract or if the employee was assaulted by the employer or his legal representatives.
In limited contracts, resignation before the end of the contract is considered a breach, while for unlimited contracts the employer stipulates the notice period within the agreement. The notice period stipulated cannot exceed three months.
If you're an unskilled worker
Breaking any employment contract before completing six months with the firm used to be considered a risky move and one that could almost certainly get you a labour ban – but this has changed. Before 2016, a 6-month ban could be applied to employees who left companies earlier than the contract-stipulated two years.
However, as per a resolution passed in 2016, you can now break the contract before six months, after completing your requisite notice period or other terms (mutually agreed upon with the employer), without a labour ban. It is based on mutual agreement with the employer only. This facility depends on your skill level as defined by the labour law.
Skill levels 1 (under-graduate degree or higher), 2 (diplomas in any field) and 3 (higher-secondary or high-school) can make use of this clause to avoid a ban. Skill levels 4 and 5 (with no education qualifications on record) will get a ban if they break an employment contract before completing at least six months and then serving notice as agreed upon.
Do remember that if you fail to serve notice, or break any other terms in the contract, you're still at risk of a ban regardless of your qualifications.
Disclaimer: For quick resolution to individual queries, please contact the MOHRE directly. While we take utmost care in staying updated on all the provisions of the law, Gulf News is not responsible for any misinterpretations, changes or amendments herein. Have a story to share? You can address your experiences, queries and concerns relating to this guide to firstname.lastname@example.org