Dubai: As businesses deal with the fall-out of COVID-19, many employers in the UAE have taken steps to ensure employee’s wellbeing and business profitability. However, what can you do if your employer asks you to go on an indefinite unpaid leave?
A Gulf News reader wrote in asking: “I work for a world renowned hotel in the UAE and have been on unpaid leave now for five months with no indication of when I will return to work. During this time of unpaid leave, I have not received my basic salary or my housing allowance. Is this legal? And for how much longer can they do this?”
Gulf News raised the query with Dr Hassan Elhais, legal consultant of Dubai-based Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultancy on what an employee’s rights are in such a situation.
Dr Elhais spoke about the special decree issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) - Ministerial Decision No. 279/2020 (Ministerial Resolution) and how it ensured the rights of both employers and employees are taken care of, to address the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses.
According to Dr Elhais, as per Article 1 of this Resolution, all companies registered with the Ministry have to mandatorily adhere to the provisions of the aforesaid Ministerial Resolution. Accordingly, as per Article 2 of the aforesaid Ministerial Resolution, companies registered with the Ministry can with the consent of the employee take action in the following order: (i) Implement remote working, (ii) grant paid leave, (iii) grant unpaid leave (iv) reduce salaries temporarily and (v) reduce salaries permanently.
“If your company considered to reduce your salary temporarily as per the aforementioned Article 2, the company needs to comply with Article 5 of the Ministerial Resolution, which provides that the company needs to conclude a temporary additional appendix to the labour contract between the employer and employee. The appendix should provide the period for the temporary reduction of the salary and can be renewed with the approval of both parties,” he said.
If your company considered to reduce your salary temporarily as per the aforementioned Article 2, the company needs to comply with Article 5 of the Ministerial Resolution, which provides that the company needs to conclude a temporary additional appendix to the labour contract between the employer and employee. The appendix should provide the period for the temporary reduction of the salary and can be renewed with the approval of both parties.
Regulations governing permanent reduction of salary
“Moreover, Article 6 of the aforesaid Resolution goes further to explain about permanent reduction in wages and provides that if both the employer and employee agree to permanently reduce the employee’s salary, the company needs to apply to the Ministry for an approval to amend the employment contract details,” he added.
An employer can also determine the date of the annual leave that an employee takes, according to Article 76 of the UAE Labour Law, which is a paid vacation.
“However, so long as both employer and employee do not consent to unpaid leaves, an employer’s conduct of putting the employee on unpaid leaves is arbitrary both as per the UAE Labour Law and the aforesaid Ministerial Resolution,” Dr Elhais said.
“Therefore, the employee has the right to register a complaint with MOHRE and subsequently register a case to claim his unpaid salary before the competent courts,” he added.
How can you raise a complaint against your employer?
You can file a complaint with MOHRE through the following options:
1. Call the Ministry’s hotline on 800 60.
2. Download the MOHRE app and file a labour complaint
3. Visit www.mohre.gov.ae and select the option for filing a labour complaint.
Read our detailed guide on how you can file a labour complaint in the UAE here.