UAE: Can employers ban employees from joining rival firms, force them to leave country?

A worker may end his or her relationship with a company by serving the stipulated notice period mentioned in the employment contract

by

Ashish Mehta

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Published: Sun 19 May 2024, 8:42 AM

Last updated: Sun 19 May 2024, 7:54 PM

Question: I work in a mainland IT company in Dubai. I am switching the job because of a better package and joining the current employer’s competitor. My existing employer came to know that I would be joining his competitor. Now he is playing delaying tactics by not accepting the resignation letter. I fear he will delay my due also. If I file a case against him, can he put a ban and I won’t be able to switch the job and have to leave the country?

Answer: As you are employed with an employer in mainland Dubai, the provisions of the UAE Employment Law and its subsequent ministerial resolutions are applicable.


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In the UAE, an employee may end the employment relationship with an employer by serving the stipulated notice period mentioned in the employment contract. This is in accordance with Article 43(1) of Federal Decree Law No. 33 of 2021 on the Regulation of Employment Relations.


Furthermore, non-acceptance of the resignation by an employee may be termed as harassment. In such an event, an employee may file a complaint with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emritisation (MoHRE). Upon filing a complaint with the Ministry and upon its consent, the employee may terminate his or her employment without serving any notice period.

This is in accordance with Article 45 (2) of the UAE Employment Law, which states:

"The employee may quit work without notice and reserve all his entitlements at the end of service if the employee is subject to assault, violence or harassment at the workplace by the employer, or his legal representative, provided that the employee reports such act to the concerned authorities and the Ministry within (5) five working days from the date on which he is able to report."

Moreover, an employer may not force an employee to leave the country upon termination of employment. This is in accordance with Article 13(2) of the UAE Employment Law, which states: “The Employer shall not seize the official documents of the employee or force him to leave the UAE after the end of work relationships.”

In the event of an alleged breach of non-competition by an employee by joining a competitor on termination of employment with an employer, it is up to the employer to prove it. The non-competition, financial or any damage caused to the employer by its previous employee need to be proven before the court which has jurisdiction to hear the matter.

This is in accordance with Article 12 (1) & (2) of the Cabinet Resolution No.1 of 2022 on the Implementation of Federal Decree Law No. 33 of 2021 Regarding the Regulation of Employment Relations, which states:

“1. Subject to the provisions of Article (10) of the Decree-Law, the following shall be observed in the application of the non-competition clause stipulated therein:

  • a. The geographical scope of application of the clause.
  • b. The term of the clause, provided that it does not exceed two years from the contract expiry date.
  • c. The nature of the work, such that it causes significant harm to the legitimate interests of the employer.

2. If a dispute arises over the non-competition clause and it is not settled amicably, the matter shall be referred to the judiciary and the burden of proving the alleged damage shall lie with the employer.”

It is the responsibility of an employer to pay the end of service benefits to its employee within 14 days from termination of employment. This is in accordance with Article 53 of the UAE Employment Law, which states, “The employer shall pay the employee within 14 (fourteen) days after the expiry of the contract, all his salary and other entitlements provided for in this Decree-Law and its implementing resolutions, the contract or the Establishment bylaws.”

Based on the aforementioned provisions of law, your employer may not deny to accept your resignation and currently, it may not be able to file a non-competition complaint or case against you as you have not joined the competitor.

Furthermore, the onus of proving breach of non-competition is on your employer against you in any court which has jurisdiction in the UAE.

Additionally, your employer should pay your end of service benefits within 14 days from the date of termination of the employment contract and your employer cannot force you to leave the UAE or may not have any valid grounds to impose an employment ban on you. In the event your employer violates your rights as mentioned above, you may consider filing an employment complaint with the MoHRE.

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: news@khaleejtimes.com or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.

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