Question: I have been employed since 2015 by an interior designing company that is incorporated in a free zone. My employer recently converted my limited duration employment contract into an unlimited one. My employer demanded that I take leave for 30 days and suggested that I book my plane tickets. I accordingly booked my flight and went on leave. However, after my leave ended, my employer intimated me that they have to terminate my employment contract with immediate effect. Is my employer allowed to terminate my employment contract while I am outside the UAE?
Pursuant to your query, we assume that the 30 days' leave your employer demanded you to take is your annual leave and you are currently outside the UAE due to which you are unable to resume work. In response to your query, it may be noted that generally free zones and the respective free zone authorities in the UAE may have their own employment rules and regulations. However, if a free zone authority does not have its own set of employment rules and regulations, then the provisions of Federal Law No. (8) of 1980 regulating employment relations in the UAE (the 'Employment Law') and the subsequent ministerial decrees shall be applicable. As you have not mentioned the free zone in which your employer is incorporated in, therefore your query will be addressed in accordance to the provisions of the Employment Law and the subsequent applicable ministerial resolutions.
As per the provisions of the Employment Law, it may be noted that an employer shall not terminate an employee while the employee is on leave. This is in accordance with Article 90 of the Employment Law, which states:
Without prejudice to the instances in which an employer is entitled to dismiss an employee without notice or without the gratuity provided for in this law, an employer shall not dismiss an employee or serve a notice of dismissal on him while the employee is on a leave provided for under this section."
However, taking into account that you were intimated about the termination of your employment contract after your leave ended and considering that you are currently outside the UAE due to which you are unable to resume work, it may be noted that your employer may be permitted to terminate your employment contract while you are outside the UAE. This is in accordance with Article 120 (j) of the Employment Law, which states:
"An employer may dismiss an employee without notice if the employee:
(j) absents from his work without a valid reason for more than 20 non-consecutive days or more than seven consecutive days."
However, if you have been unable to return to the UAE owing to the suspension of all inbound and outbound passenger flights due to ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, you may request your employer to reconsider the termination of your employment contract as you are unable to travel to the UAE to resume work due to travel restrictions imposed. This may be considered as a valid reason for being unable to resume work and therefore, your employer may not be permitted to terminate your employment contract for not restarting work after the end of your leave.
However, if you opine that the termination of your employment contract is arbitrary, you may approach the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiritisation (the MoHRE) and thereafter, the court which has jurisdiction to hear the matter, if necessary. This is in accordance with Article 122 of the Employment Law, which states:
An employee's service shall be deemed to have been arbitrarily terminated by his employer if the reason for the termination is irrelevant to the work and more particularly, if the reason is that the employee has submitted a serious complaint to the competent authorities or has instituted legal proceedings against the employer that has proved to be valid."
Further, you may also claim compensation up to three months' salary for arbitrary dismissal from your employment. This is in accordance with Article 123 of the Employment Law, which states:
(a) Where an employee is arbitrarily dismissed, the competent court may order the employer to pay him compensation. The court shall assess such compensation with due regard to the nature of the work, the amount of prejudice he has sustained and his period of service, and after investigating the circumstances of the work. The amount of the compensation shall in no case exceed the employee's remuneration for three months calculated on the basis of the last remuneration he was entitled to.
(b) The provisions of the preceding paragraph shall not prejudice the employee's right to the gratuity he is entitled to and the termination notice allowance provided for in this law."
In view of the foregoing, you may approach your employer and request him to reconsider the termination of your employment contract. If your employer declines to reconsider it, you may request him to compensate you for arbitrary dismissal if you believe that your termination of employment was arbitrary in nature. If your employer does not agree with you and if he does not compensate you after your request, then you may consider approaching the MoHRE to file a complaint against your employer.
Know the law
Where an employee is arbitrarily dismissed, the competent court may order the employer to pay him compensation.
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