Legal experts have made it clear that employees in the UAE cannot be forced by their employers to take unpaid leave or be given a reduction in salaries without their consent.
Experts have spoken to the international news source on the fine print of the Ministerial Decision No. 279/2020 recently issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) considering coronavirus pandemic. Experts have said that mutual agreement must be made between the two parties.
Experts have clarified that employees are authorized to ask their employees to work remotely or take annual/paid leaves. But, the implementation for unpaid leaves and reduction in salaries for a temporary basis should be decided upon mutual agreement must be registered with MOHRE.
Director, corporate-commercial department at Gulf law Barney Almazar has said, “We have been receiving around 200 queries a day both from employees and companies asking what can they can legally do to address the current crisis.”
“My advice is to always have a dialogue. Both employers and employees should work together to find a mutually acceptable solution that must be fair to both sides. After all, this is only a temporary measure.”
“Employers must be transparent and should act in good faith. Before taking drastic actions, they should first attempt to resolve the situation with lighter measures. What we are avoiding is a situation where the vulnerable is abused. In most of the companies I represent, the biggest pay cut is applied to the high-level management, with some officers contributing their salaries to ensure rank and file employees have money for their families. In return, appreciative employees render extra hours waiving overtime pay.”
He also added, “Employers must extend every possible assistance while employees should cooperate with the efforts of the company, think of the welfare of their colleagues and evaluate the chances of gaining new employment if they leave their present job. But in the unfortunate situation that the parties cannot mutually agree, the company has the right to terminate the employee. The employee is entitled to full end-of-service benefits.”
Mohammed Ebrahim Al Shaiba of Al Shaiba Advocates and Legal Consultants was asked by one employer on how they can convince employees to take unpaid leaves. He said, “The act is legal if it is accompanied by the acceptance of the employee which means that there should be a mutual agreement between the two parties of the employment contract where the employee accepts this act to preserve the interests of both parties during the period of applying precautionary measures to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. This agreement can be in the form of a leave application or any kind of annexure where the employee expresses his acceptance.”
However, “The employer may at his discretion determine the date for commencement of annual leaves and, when necessary, he may decide to divide the leave into two parts at the most, except in cases of juveniles where vacation may not be divided into parts,” said Almazar.