UAE labour law: Can my boss cancel an approved leave?

Dubai - Find out what legal protection employees have in such situations.

By Ashish Mehta

Published: Sun 13 Jun 2021, 10:41 AM

Last updated: Wed 30 Jun 2021, 2:10 PM

Question: I work in a company in Dubai. I had applied for a four-week leave at the beginning of this year that was approved. I was to take the leave from mid-June, but my employer has just told me that it stands cancelled as a colleague needs to go for an emergency. I had planned this holiday and paid the airfare and hotel accommodation in advance. I will lose a lot of money if I cancel it. What legal protection do I have here?

Answer: Pursuant to your queries, it is assumed that you are employed in a mainland company based in Dubai. Therefore, the provisions of Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 Regulating Employment Relations in the UAE (the ‘Employment Law’) and the provisions of Federal Law No. (5) of 1985 On the Civil Transactions Law of the UAE (the ‘Civil Transactions Law’) are applicable.


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It should be noted that, in the UAE, it is the discretion of the employer to approve the timing of annual leave of its employees. This is in accordance with Article 76 of the Employment Law, which states: “The employer may at his discretion determine the date for commencement of annual leaves and, when necessary, he may decide to divide the leave in two parts at the most, except in cases of juveniles where vacation may not be divided in parts.”

Based on the aforementioned provision of law, you may not be able to successfully dispute with your employer the cancellation of your annual leave. Therefore, filing an employment complaint with the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratization (the ‘MOHRE’) may not get you the desired result.

If you had informed your employer, in writing, at the time you applied for vacation that you are booking air ticket and hotel accommodation, then you may file a civil claim against your employer in the Amicable Centre of the Dubai Courts if your claim amount is lesser than Dh200,000.

Article 282 to Article 298 of the Civil Transactions Law are related to tortious liabilities. The term ‘Tort’ is defined as ‘a wrongful act or an infringement of a right (other than under contract) leading to legal liability’. You may claim from your employer the compensation towards the damages caused to you due to cancellation of your air ticket and hotel accommodation.

This is in accordance with Article 295 of the Civil Transactions Law, which states: “Damages will consist of a money payment. Upon request of the victim, however, the judge may, in accordance with the circumstances, order that the damage be made good by restoring the parties to their original status, or by performing, in compensation, a specific matter connected with the prejudicial act.”


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However, keeping in mind that your annual leave was cancelled as one of your colleagues had to travel on leave due to emergency, your employer may defend the cancellation, citing unforeseen circumstances. This is in accordance with Article 287 of the Civil Transactions Law, which states: “In the absence of a provision in the law or an agreement to the contrary, a person is not liable for reparation if he proves that the prejudice resulted from a cause beyond his control such as a heavenly blight, unforeseen circumstances, force majeure, the fault of others or of the victim.”

It is recommended that you approach a legal counsel in the UAE to avail further legal advice on this matter.

Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: Readers may e-mail their questions to: or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.

Photo: Alamy
Photo: Alamy

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