Are non-Muslims entitled to unpaid leave for pilgrimage in UAE?
Dubai - The employee shall be granted leave without pay for the purpose of fulfilling the obligation to make the pilgrimage.
I am employed by a private company incorporated in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. I presume that pursuant to Article 87 of the Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 regulating employment relations (the 'Employment Law'), I am entitled to one-month unpaid leave for pilgrimage and this unpaid leave shall not be deductible from other leaves. I have requested my employer for pilgrimage leave and my employer has declined my request stating that such leave is applicable to Muslims and non-Muslims are not entitled to apply for such pilgrimage leave.
It is assumed that you are a non-Muslim. Article 87 of the Employment Law states, "Every employee shall be granted, once in the course of his period of service, special leave without pay for the purpose of fulfilling the obligation to make the pilgrimage (Haj); such leave shall not be counted towards any other periods of leave and shall not exceed 30 days."
The word 'pilgrimage' in the aforementioned provision of law should be construed as 'Haj'. The Arabic version of the Employment Law terms the word pilgrimage as Haj which is applicable for Muslims. You should refer to the Arabic version of the Employment Law as the English translation may not be accurately translated. The Arabic text of the Employment Law shall supersede its English translation. This is in accordance with Article 2 of the Employment Law, states, 'Arabic shall be the language to be used in all records, contracts, files, statements etc., provided for in this law or in any orders or regulations made thereunder. Arabic shall also be used in the instructions and circulars issued to employees by their employer. Where a foreign language is used by the employer in addition to Arabic, the Arabic version shall be regarded as authoritative."
Based on the aforementioned provisions of law, your employer is justified in declining your request for unpaid leave to perform pilgrimage.
Know the law
An employee shall be granted once in the course of his period of service, special leave without pay for the purpose of fulfilling the obligation to make the pilgrimage (Haj); such leave shall not be counted towards any other periods of leave and shall not exceed 30 days
Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom, Singapore, 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