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Will UAE firms treat staff fairly over volcano travel chaos?

Will UAE firms treat staff fairly over volcano travel chaos?

A volcanic ash cloud is a pretty good excuse for not being at work. So let’s hope UAE employers don’t use it as a good excuse to dock the pay of employees left stranded abroad.


April 18, 2010 10:10 by

Workers in the UAE (not to mention other Gulf countries) often complain that the law is skewed in favor of employers.

This is partly down to how local employment law applies to expats. For example, UAE firms can report employees as ‘absconding’ – preventing them from leaving the country – or make life difficult when staff want to switch jobs. Despite being illegal, many companies withhold employees’ passports, apparently for ‘safekeeping’, but often as a form of control. And while there have been various initiatives to ensure employees’ wages get paid on time, such measures are not always effective.

Another law is highly relevant to UAE residents left stranded abroad, following the flight cancellations after the volcanic eruption in Iceland. According to legal firm DLA Piper Middle East, employers can dock the pay of any staff member not returning to work on time.

Admittedly, this is not particularly out of the ordinary, or even particularly unfair under normal circumstances. In many countries, an employee who does not turn up to work would have their pay docked.

But a volcanic ash cloud is a pretty good excuse for not being at work. So let’s hope UAE employers – who already wield such power over their staff – don’t use it as a good excuse to dock the pay of stranded employees.

As DLA Piper’s Neil Crossley said in a statement issued to the press, “we would encourage employers to be flexible given the circumstances”. Crossley suggested that staff should be allowed to work remotely, or use up remaining holiday if they are trapped abroad.

Good advice. Let’s hope Crossley’s sensible suggestion is followed by Middle East employers.

Have you been affected by the flight cancellations due to the Iceland volcano eruption? How did your company react if you missed work? Have your say by submitting a comment below, or email us at [email protected].


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1 Comment

  1. Anupama V. Chand on April 19, 2010 4:19 am

    The UAE should certainly not ask the workers who happen to be stranded elsewhere in the world to pay a hefty price for their circumstances that have left them stranded on foreign shores. What in heavens name are they supposed to do when all the flights from those places have been cancelled? Ride a donkey train? Sometimes the attitude of the labour market in these countries resembles those of people in the dark ages, one of the reasons that the Middle East can never enjoy a transparent business environment that automatically fuels growth…in situations like this, a more humane approach is called for, and individual companies should del with their off-work employees on a case-by-case basis, rather than tarring them all with the sme brush and calling them “absconding”……losses are being incurred already worldover – by the workers, by the airlines and so many related industries.


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