Exploited teens in UAE urged to get work permits
Authorities have warned teenagers working part-time for promotional companies not to take up jobs without signing a contract, as it can lead to them being exploited.
With the number of public events rising in the last few months, a trend to hire teenagers for promotional events has also risen. However, Gulf News has discovered that several companies hiring people under the age of 18 have either refused to pay them, not offered them a contract, or paid wages less than initially agreed.
One concerned parent, Malika, explained that her 17-year-old daughter was first offered Dh4,000 to work for up to eight hours a day for a promotional company during a sports event last December, but was given Dh600 instead.
“My daughter, along with all the other teenagers, were not given a written contract and only made a verbal agreement and got a text message. And it was only afterwards that the parents found out that the employer did not have a legitimate company or a trade licence,” she said.
Another parent, Imran, who also faced a similar situation with his 16-year-old daughter, said that she was initially offered Dh500 for a day’s work with Bollywood stars, but was never paid. His daughter was also not offered a written contract.
“They just kept giving excuses and refused to pay, no matter how hard we insisted. There are legitimate companies out there but also some that are clearly violating the rules and regulations, and should not be taking advantage of these kids,” he said.
When contacted by Gulf News, an official at the Ministry of Labour stressed that nobody is authorised to work without a labour contract or a labour card even if they are underage, and these conditions apply to both limited employment contracts and unlimited employment contracts.
“Limited employment contracts are for a specified duration with characteristics such as specific commencement and completion date while the unlimited contracts, there will be a true commencement date, but no completion date. The contract is terminated on mutual agreement by either party, by giving a 30-day notice of termination,” the official said.
The official explained that school students, college and university students sponsored by the institute or sponsored by their parents are also allowed to work part-time under certain conditions, with a part-time work permit provided by the Ministry of Labour.
The official said that a labour contact is not required for women sponsored by their husbands or fathers but a labour card is a must.
“The part-time employment permit basically permits the holder to remain employed in more than one part-time job. Part-time work permits are available with a validity period of one year. However, female dependents and students with a UAE residence visa do not need a work permit to work part-time,” he added.
The official said that expatriate workers over the age of 18 can obtain short-term work permits valid for 60 days at a time.
“This 60-day work permit can be renewed up to five times, provided, the renewal is done prior to the expiry date of the permit or last renewed period,” he said.
The Ministry of Labour official added that teenagers in the age group 15-18 years are allowed to work even with promotional companies, on obtaining a teenage work permit from the Labour Ministry.
The official said that there are certain restrictions on the type of work and hours of employment for teenagers aged between 15-18.
The official said that before employing a juvenile, employers should retain copies of certain documents in the juvenile’s personal file, such as a birth certificate, physical fitness certificate issued by a specialised physician and written consent from the juvenile’s guardian. Further, the employment of a juvenile is prohibited when the job requires night shifts, or is of a hazardous nature or harmful to health, such as underground jobs in mines, quarries, furnaces, oil refining, the asphalt industry and bakeries.
The official said when the working hours of an underage person exceed six hours a day, one or more breaks should be provided. Juveniles are not permitted to work overtime, or on holidays. A juvenile work permit has a validity period of one year.
He said promotional companies without a trade licence are illegal and they cannot employ anyone, including underage people.
“In case the promotional company did not pay for the employee even if they are underage they can complain to the ministry of labour,” the official said.
The official added that if a promotional company is employing underage people without a labour contract they can file an official complaint at the Ministry of Labour with proof that they worked for the company and the ministry will take action against the company.