Covid-19 not an excuse for random pay cuts, layoffs in UAE: Lawyer

Marie Nammour /Dubai Filed on October 24, 2020 | Last updated on October 25, 2020 at 03.00 pm

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Abdel Monem Bin Suwaidan

One expat, who has lodged a labour case in court, told Khaleej Times that the company he worked for slashed its employees’ salaries by 50%.

Despite Covid-triggered challenges, businesses in the UAE cannot randomly fire employees or deduct salaries, an Emirati lawyer has said.

Concerned about the plight of some expats who reportedly lost their livelihoods without due process, lawyer Abdul Monem Bin Suwaidan said employees have every right to file a complaint if they believe they were deprived of their labour rights during the Covid-19 outbreak.

At the end of March, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (Mohre) passed a resolution to regulate jobs and salaries in businesses that were affected by the pandemic. Companies have been allowed to temporarily cut salaries or send staff on leaves — provided that they meet the requirements and follow the legal process.

“However, it has come to light that some businesses have been increasingly taking advantage of the order to ‘randomly’ sack their staff and workers or deprive them of their salaries and other rights,” said the lawyer from Bin Suwaidan Firm for Advocates and Legal Counsels.

Expats seek legal action

One expat, who has lodged a labour case in court, told Khaleej Times that the company he worked for slashed its employees’ salaries by 50 per cent without proper justification.

“The excuse for the cut was that the business was not doing well, which is not true. They claimed they had no other alternative, but risking having to close down. Their revenues kept flowing in nonetheless,” the expat said on the condition of anonymity.

Another resident claimed that her employer was ‘maneuvering’ her into filing a resignation or signing salary deductions.

“I work for a contracting company. I was working full time but I was still told to sign the annex of salary deduction while projects were going on,” the female expat said.

She recalled that it even reached a point where ‘abusive language’ was used against her. “My salary was withheld because I refuse to sign the unfair and totally unjustifiable salary deduction. They tried their best to make me cede my gratuity benefits and other entitlements.”

Bin Suwaidan said that if any employee feels that he is not being treated fairly, he could approach Mohre and file a complaint.

“It is always preferable to try and work out an amicable settlement, considering the work relation that was developed over the years. But if the employer continues to abstain from granting the due rights, then the employee must seek legal action through the Labour Court,” the lawyer said.

'Firms have to show proof that they are not earning enough'

Covid-hit businesses have to follow a series of regulatory steps and meet a number of requirements before they can proceed with layoffs, salary cuts or placing staff on leaves, based on the resolution released by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation earlier this year.

Bin Suwaidan said the decree has put restrictions on the process of dismissal of employees or deductions of their salaries.

“When implementing the order, the companies are required to present (to the ministry) a justification such as scarcity or decline in their revenues. So it is definitely not an arbitrary selection,” the lawyer explained.

“The procedure can start with unpaid leave and then a (limited and definite) period of three months of salary cut. Contractors, for example, have to present a drop in their construction projects.

“Catering and restaurants have to present statements about their earnings and revenues — when necessary — to justify the exceptional steps.”


Marie Nammour

Originally from Lebanon, Marie has been covering the Dubai Courts and the Public Prosecution, immigration and labour issues often, Lebanese community-related affairs and the Dubai International Film Festival. A graduate from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Jounieh, a city to the north of Beirut, Marie worked as an in-house reporter, covering international affairs for the LBCI and the LBC Sat (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International), a leading TV station back home and a legal translator for Sagesse, a renowned law college in the heart of the Lebanese capital. Marie speaks fluently Arabic, French, English and Spanish. She is fond of travelling, psychology, learning more and of the French literature.

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