Why your employment contract may not be legally valid in UAE
This is as per the provisions of Ministerial Decree No. (764) of 2015.
Q1- I received a job letter from a prospective employer in the UAE and was asked by the company to cancel my existing employment visa. I cancelled it on the advice of the said prospective employer and they assured me that they would provide me with a new employment visa. The prospective employer suggested I leave the UAE, which I did. However, they did not send me the employment visa as per their assurances. I returned to the UAE on a visit visa. Can I file a complaint against my prospective employer who offered me a job by issuing me an employment letter? Would I be liable to pay for overstay fines in the event my presence is required during court proceedings after I file a complaint?
Pursuant to your queries, it is assumed that you received the employment letter from a company based in the mainland of UAE and therefore, the provisions of Ministerial Decree No. (764) of 2015 on Ministry of Labour approved standard employment contracts (the 'Ministerial Decree No. (764) of 2015') are applicable.
As per the provisions of Ministerial Decree No. (764) of 2015, it may be noted that an employer has to provide to an employee with an employment letter which is in consonance with the standard employment contract that is issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE). The employment letter must be signed by the employer and employee. Article 1 of the Ministerial Decree No. (764) of 2015 states: "The employment contract specimen is henceforth adopted for use as a standard employment contract. Tentative approval to admit a foreign employee for the purpose of employment in the UAE cannot be granted until an employment offer that conforms with the standard employment contract is presented to and duly signed by the employee."
Further, the employment contract which is executed by the employee must contain the exact terms stipulated in the employment letter before the registration of the job agreement with the MOHRE. This is in accordance with Article 4 of the Ministerial Decree No. 764 of 2015, which states: "The employer must retrieve from the ministry system a standard contract that captures exactly the terms of the employment offer and obtain the employee's signature on the contract prior to presenting it for registration with the ministry. No alteration or substitution of terms may be entered unless such alteration or substitution benefits the employee and after the alteration or substitution is approved by both the employee and the ministry."
Therefore, it may be noted that an executed employment letter alone may not be enforceable as an employment contract. An employment contract which is registered with the MOHRE may also be required in order for the employment letter to be legally enforceable.
In the UAE as per the prevailing practices, the MOHRE may only entertain complaints in matters where an employment contract between an employer and an employee is registered with them. However, if your signed offer letter is as per the format provided by the MOHRE then you may file a complaint with the ministry against your prospective employer. Furthermore, as you are currently in the UAE on a visit visa and if your complaint is accepted by the MOHRE, subsequently if there is no amicable settlement between you and your prospective employer then you may proceed to file an employment case against your prospective employer in the court which has competent jurisdiction to hear the matter.
It would be prudent to check if the employment letter mentions if it would be valid and effective upon approval/issuance of your employment visa by the authorities. You may file a civil claim case against your prospective employer, for the damages you may have incurred due to their false assurances of providing you the employment. Further, if your stay under visit visa lapses in the UAE and if your case is still pending before the court in the UAE, then you may have to pay fines for overstaying in the country. You may contact the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai for any further information regarding overstay fines.
You may accordingly consult a legal practitioner in the UAE, in order to file a claim against the prospective employer before a court having the competent jurisdiction, if the existence of an employment letter and a registered employment contract with the MOHRE between you and the prospective employer is valid.
Know the law
The employer must retrieve from the ministry system a standard contract that captures exactly the terms of the employment offer and obtain the employee's signature on the contract prior to presenting it for registration with the ministry.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.
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