I am among a group of employees who have been working for a company on an unlimited contract for more than two years. Our contract stipulates a maximum of 8 working hours per day. Last month the company informed us that we will have to work an extra hour each day as overtime but without extra payment. We have also learnt that anyone who objects to the change in work conditions risks being fired. Our question is, as per the labour law, do we have the right to refuse the company’s order asking us to work overtime without due compensation. Do they have the right to terminate our contracts if we don’t follow the new order. Please advise.

Article 65 of the UAE Labour Law states: “The maximum normal hours of work of adult workers shall be eight a day or 48 a week. The hours of work may be increased to nine hours a day in commercial establishments, hotels and cafes and of guard duties and any other operations where such increase is authorised by order of the minister of labour and social affairs. The daily hours of work may be reduced in the case of arduous or unhealthy operations by order of the minister of labour and social affairs. “The normal hours of work shall be reduced by two during the month of Ramadan.
“The periods spent by a worker in travelling between home and place of work shall not be included in his hours of work.” Hence, the employer in this case appears to be in violation of the above article. If the employer refuses to pay for the overtime hours, the questioners may file a complaint before the Ministry of Labour in this regard. If the employer terminates the workers’ contracts on these grounds, he will be in breach of the employment contract.

Questions answered by Mohammad Al Shaiba of Mohammad Al Shaiba Advocates and Legal Consultants