I have been sacked due to mental health issues. How do I get my job back?
Know your legal rights in the UAE.
Question: I am a contracts engineer working with a private company in Dubai for the last seven years. For the past eight months, I have been going through some mental health issues and am seeking psychiatric treatment. My company knows about it as I have taken leave citing mental health issues on several occasions in the past. Now, due to the Covid-19 situation and the uncertainties surrounding the crisis, I am under severe stress and anxiety and it affected my work.
Last week, my company terminated my services. Is it legal to fire an employee who has mental health issues? Do I have the legal right to keep my job as long as I am capable of delivering my work requirements?
Pursuant to your queries, it is assumed that you were employed by a mainland private company based in the emirate of Dubai. Therefore, the provisions of Federal Law No. (8) of 1980 regulating employment relations in the UAE (the 'Employment Law') are applicable.
In the UAE, an employee may not be terminated on the grounds of deficiency in health. This is in accordance with Article 124 of the Employment Law, which states: "The employer may not terminate the service of an employee for his health deficiency before he avails himself of the leaves lawfully due to him. Any agreement to the contrary is deemed null and void even if it is made before this law comes into operation."
Further, we assume that you were terminated by your employer on the grounds of mental health issues. The Employment Law is silent related to the matters of mental health issues of the employees. However, if these issues do not affect your capabilities to perform your employment obligations, then the termination of your employment may be considered as arbitrary termination. This is in accordance with Article 122 of the Employment Law, which states:
"Termination by the employer of an employee's service is considered arbitrary if the cause for such termination has nothing to do with the work. In particular, termination is considered arbitrary if the employee's service has been terminated on grounds, or a reasonable complaint lodged by him to the competent authorities, or on grounds of a justifiable action brought by him against the employer."
If an employer terminates the employee arbitrarily without a valid reason, then the worker may claim up to three months of salary from the company as compensation for arbitrary termination. This is in accordance with Article 123 of the Employment Law, which states:
"a. If the employee has been arbitrarily dismissed, the competent court has the jurisdiction to give judgment against the employer for payment of compensation to the employee. The court shall determine the amount of this compensation, taking into consideration the nature of work sustained by the employee, period of service and after investigation of dismissal circumstances. Provided that in all cases the amount of compensation should not exceed the employee's pay for a period of three months, to be worked out on the basis of last pay due to him.
b. The provisions of the preceding clause shall not prejudice to the employee's entitlement to the gratuity due to him and notice period provided for in this law."
You may obtain a medical report from your doctor and submit it. Further, you may request your employer to reconsider the termination of your employment and inform the firm that you are capable of performing your employment obligations and assure them your mental health issues will not affect your performance. In the event the response of your employer is not to your satisfaction, you may approach the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and file a complaint against your employer for arbitrary termination of your employment on grounds of mental health issues.
Know the law
If an employer terminates the employee arbitrarily without a valid reason, then the worker may claim up to three months of salary from the company as compensation for arbitrary termination
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: www.amalawyers.com. Readers may e-mail their questions to: email@example.com or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.
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