Unpaid leave or other changes to employment arrangements which result in a reduction or suspension of salary payments to an employee may raise issues with the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) Wage Protection Scheme (WPS). In particular, failure to pay employees who have agreed to unpaid leave may trigger a WPS block resulting in penalties and an inability for the company to continue to employ staff.
From our recent discussions with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE), submitting a copy of the agreement in Arabic between the employer and the employee for the implementation of unpaid leave may prevent or lift a WPS block. In the current climate, it is likely that the MOHRE will be sympathetic to companies who have negotiated unpaid leave with employees in accordance with the prevailing interpretation of the UAE Labour Law and be willing to lift or not impose a WPS block.
PRO Partner Group are keeping all clients updated as we receive further information in relation to the WPS.
In relation to unpaid leave arrangements, the advice from leading law firms is that there is no legal mechanism for unpaid leave. Therefore, an employer cannot unilaterally impose unpaid leave on an employee but they can request and seek the agreement of an employee to move to an unpaid leave arrangement. Companies are recommended to seek an agreement with an employee on a voluntary basis and ensure that there is no undue pressure or influence in the process of reaching an agreement. Furthermore, any agreement reached between an employer and an employee should be clearly documented and be unambiguous in its terms. In particular, we recommend that the agreement clearly sets out:
- the reasons for the request for unpaid leave;
- when unpaid leave will take effect;
- circumstances when unpaid leave will not apply;
- when the employee will return to normal paid employment; and
- expectations for the employee and employer during the period of unpaid leave.