Know the law in the UAE.
Question: I have been on unpaid leave since May 2020 and my employer wants to extend it until the end of December 2020. He has also mentioned that it might be extended until the end of quarter 1 of 2021. Besides, he did not renew my health insurance since May 2020 even though I am still employed by the company. How long can an employer extend an unpaid leave? What should I do get my health insurance?
We assume that you are employed by a mainland company based in the emirate of Dubai and further assume that you have been put on unpaid leave due to Covid-19. Therefore the provisions of Ministerial Resolution No. (279) of 2020 concerning the employment stability in establishments of the private sector during the application of precautionary measures to control novel coronavirus outbreak (the ‘Ministerial Resolution No. 279 of 2020’) and the provisions of Dubai Law No. (11) of 2013 concerning health insurance in Dubai (the ‘Dubai Health Insurance Law’) are applicable.
It should be noted that an employer in the UAE may call upon an employee to avail of unpaid leave if the employer is affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is in accordance with Article 2 of the Ministerial Resolution No. 279 of 2020, which states: “Establishments affected by the precautionary measures referred to above, who wish to reorganise its employment relations, shall take the following measures gradually and in agreement with the non-national employee, as per the following:
1. Apply a remote working system.
2. Granting a paid leave.
3. Granting an unpaid leave.
4. Temporarily reduction of salary during the mentioned period.
5. Permanent reduction of salary.”.
The aforesaid requires a non-national employee to agree with the employer to be put on unpaid leave. You have not mentioned if you agreed to be put on unpaid leave. If you did agree, then based on the aforementioned provision of law your employer may currently exercise the provisions of the Ministerial Resolution No 279 of 2020 as it has not been repealed by the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation (the ‘Mohre’).
Further, your employer is obligated to provide you with health insurance cover. This is in accordance with Article 10 of the Dubai Health Insurance Law, which states: “The employer shall be obliged to do the following:
1. Cover the employees thereof by health insurance in accordance with the health insurance policy applicable thereby, providing to comply with the provisions of this law and the resolutions issued pursuant thereto.
2. Bear the costs for such health insurance coverage rather than making the beneficiaries bear such costs.
3. Verify that the health insurance of the employees thereof is valid for the length of their work period at the employer.
4. Bear the health services and medical intervention costs in emergencies for any of the employees thereof, if any of them has no health insurance in accordance with the provisions of this law.
5. Give the employees thereof the health insurance card.
6. Provide the health insurance policy upon the residence issuance or renewal of the employees thereof.
7. Any other obligations specified by the authority pursuant to the resolutions issued thereby in such concern.”.
Therefore, based on the aforementioned provision of law, your employer should provide you with health insurance during the period of your employment. Article 23 of the Dubai Health Insurance Law states that if an employer fails to provide health insurance, the authority concerned or the Dubai Health Authority (the ‘DHA’) may impose penalties ranging from Dh500 to Dh150,000. If the employer violates this law repeatedly, penalties may go up to Dh500,000.
If you did not agree with your employer to be put on unpaid leave, then you may lodge a complaint with the Mohre. If your employer does not provide you with health insurance cover, you may lodge a complaint against him with the Mohre and DHA.
Know the law
An employer in the UAE may call upon an employee to avail of unpaid leave if the employer is affected by the Covid-19 pandemic
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: [email protected] or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.
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