Let’s face it, most expats in the UAE are here to earn money, whether it’s the new millennial or the western expat beside you. It is the promise land to make a better-than-decent living while enjoying some perks of a non-taxable income and an advantageous lifestyle.
Hence it’s no wonder when we bag a job that pays better or offers perks it is natural to dive right in. Stop right there. The Ministry of Labour keeps a close watch on labour laws being implemented and being uninformed or ignorant might land you in hot water.
Do not jump!
So you've managed to get a job sooner than others but your new employer wants you to start immediately. Take a moment. Remember you have commitments to your previous employer. End-of-term formalities are extremely important regulations to adhere to according to the labour laws in the UAE and might even land you in trouble with your new dream job.For instance, serve your notice period or find alternative solutions approved by the Ministry of Labour to waive off any obligations to your previous employer.
While most of us are here on a work visa, this will ensure a smooth transition for your employer to cancel your visa and for you to obtain a new work visa. Be understanding to your previous employer but make sure you're not taken advantage of.
Read your contract
Being the most obvious yet the most ignored point. Ensure you read your contract correctly and patiently.
We are often given those few crucial moments by the HR to 'go through' it. This is probably the biggest mistakes we make. Ask your employer for a copy of your contract and read it peacefully while letting your employer know you will sign it soon. If you are one of those who run through details, ask a friend or partner to help.
A labour contract here, like other countries, is legally binding and lack of understanding could result in you being banned to work or even fined. Make sure to read key points about your basic pay, annual leave, probation period, terms for termination, limited/unlimited contract and other information.
Scan the workings of your new employer
Notice how understanding your new employer is. If you feel your employer is delaying processes, withholding information, or not prioritising your queries, you might not be in the best suitable environment.
If you feel dejected right in the start, it is not a good sign for when you actually join the company. If you can, visit the workplace and observe the attitude of your colleagues. If you find a friendly face, you could ask them about the work environment casually. Chances are you will get a true picture which might save you angst in the future. Do not hesitate to ask questions.
Keep copies of all documents
With the million formalities we complete while changing jobs, it might be difficult to keep a track of all the legal documents you might receive. Take photocopies of all documents you sign or receive from officials. This includes your contract/offer letter, visa cancellation papers from your previous employer, a no objection certificate from them, your new employers work visa application, your designation status amongst other things. Even pictures and phone scans can come in handy.
You never know when you might need to refer to them or require them. It is best to keep a copy for your use. Do not hesitate in asking for a copy, it is a way for you to safeguard your rights as an employee.
Check your basic pay
Even though your salary maybe a decent amount, your basic pay is what your gratuity is calculated upon. Hence if your basic pay is low, your bonus and other benefits will also be affected. Talk to your employer about it. Check terms of the contract on how gratuity and perks are calculated so you aren't in for a rude shock later.
Tie up loose ends
As you move on, tie up any lose ends and conclude any matters with your previous employer that might come to haunt you at your new job. For example, if the previous employer owes you any amount of money or you did not share a good rapport with the management, it is best to end things on a positive note.
Burning bridges is never wise as you never know when you might need some assistance. So move on, but make sure you tidy up first. Take reference letters and keep in touch with previous employers and colleagues to stay in the loop.
Know your rights
Sometimes, our biggest flaw in an unfamiliar country is we lack the knowledge of the local rules and regulations. As an employee, you enjoy various rights provided by the Ministry of Labour, however they are not to be misused.
As an employee, you are allotted public holidays sanctioned by the government, which no matter the circumstance, the employer has to provide or compensate for with leave-in-lieu or money. Other rules include your rights and terms for termination by employer, your gratuity allowance, number of hours per week amongst other important issues. Do not be afraid to bring these up to your employer as the law is same for all and your employer will have to comply.
There are many legal advisors available to sort out problems and disagreements, and you need to be smart and aware of your rights, duties and privileges as an employee. Take advantage of the free legal advice columns provided by publications and solicitors.
Best of luck!
- Sanobar Mistry is a published journalist and currently a teacher in Dubai.