A recent letter by a 7DAYS reader about changing jobs sparked a lot of debate. The reader was worried that their current employer would cause trouble for them if they tried to leave and the person wanted to know what their rights were.

Here, solicitor Nida Chaudhry answers some of the key questions about moving companies.

Can I change jobs at any time?

You may change jobs at any time, however a departing employee must provide appropriate notice provisions to their employer. The legal notice period is 30 days. If an employee departs from his employment without providing the appropriate notice then that employee shall not receive their gratuity. There are, of course, situations wherein an employee may leave without notice, which are limited to circumstances where an employer has breached his duties to an employee or assaulted an employee. In practice, such violations are difficult to prove and therefore we recommend that 30 days’ notice always be provided.

Can my boss refuse to let me go?

No, your boss cannot refuse to let you go. However, there are consequences for not properly leaving employment. For example, if proper notice is not provided, then this will impact your gratuity.

When should my gratuity be paid?

The gratuity is payable at the end of the notice period. For example, if an employee gives his employer notice of 30 days resignation, he will receive his gratuity at the end of the 30-day notice period.

Can my old employer withhold all or part of my gratuity?

Your employer may not deduct amounts owing to you pursuant to your gratuity, however, the employer is entitled to deduct from your gratuity, anything which you as an employee are owing to the company. Your employment contract would outline what you and the employer have agreed to when it comes to items that the employee is responsible for. For example, the cost of phone bills, or some other benefits, may be the financial responsibility of the employee. The contract will have to be reviewed in these cases.

What will happen to my visa?

An employer must cancel or transfer sponsorship of an employee’s residence visa and labour card (or ID card if the employee is working in the free zones) within 30 days following termination of employment. In addition, employees must sign a final settlement form stating that they have received all of their legal entitlements, including gratuity and notice period pay, before the authorities will cancel their residence visa and labour card (or ID card, if applicable). This helps to protect employees in ensuring they have received the appropriate financial settlement.

Will I have to leave the country before starting the new post?

In most cases, you will be required to leave the country. However, there are processes available where a terminated employee may obtain a new visa without having to leave the country. The latter route is often more costly however.

I’ve heard companies can get you ‘banned’ from the UAE for leaving, is this true?

Yes, a company may ban an employee depending on the timing of your departure from the company and whether you have provided a proper reason for leaving. For example, in a limited contract, if an employee departs before its expiry and without reason, then the employer may issue a ban which effectively prevents the employee from obtaining a visa under new employment, for a period of one year. In an unlimited contract, an employee would face a six-month labour ban. There are limited exemptions in place such as within free zones where the rules vary slightly, however the reality is that bans do exist.

Can I challenge the ban?

If you wish for the ban to be lifted, a certain sum of money may be paid to lift the ban. Sometimes if you have been hired by a new employer, the new employer will agree to pay to have the ban lifted such that you may commence work at the new employment.

What should I do if I feel my old employer is just trying to make trouble for me?

In this case, we recommend that you attend the Ministry of Labour to file a complaint. If you work for a free zone company, you may file a complaint through the free zone authority. Some free zone authorities have implemented a mediation process whereby both parties attend a mediation session in an effort to resolve outstanding disputes. This is a helpful avenue to resolve disputes and can often lead to a settlement outside of court, providing employees with an affordable solution to their disputes.

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