UAE Labour Law unclear on notice period for resigning probationary employees

I am a doctor and am planning to relocate to the UAE for work. I have received offer letters from hospitals with confusing clauses and would be grateful if you could clarify. Can an employee resign during the six-month probation period? If yes, is there need for a notice period? Can he work immediately without a no objection certificate from the employer? And if an employee works for the full notice period and the employer does not give him a no objection certificate, how can the employee change job without facing a problem? Also, do competition clauses still exist? PS, India

Anyone is able to resign during the probationary period, but it is unclear from UAE Labour Law whether they need to work a notice period. The best advice is to assume this is still required, but it is rarely more than 30 days. Once this notice period has been completed, an employee who is considered skill category 1, such as a doctor, is free to move job without any kind of ban or penalty, assuming he is on an unlimited contract. This is part of the new rules which came into effect last month. Non-competition clauses do exist, but are usually in relation to sales and senior management roles, and I would not expect a medical specialist to have such a clause in their contract. Labour Law permits such clauses as a way of protecting a business, and while they are legitimate, such post-termination restrictions can be difficult to enforce. Article 127 of UAE Labour Law specifically states that where an employee performs a role which allows him to become familiar with confidential information, the employer may put in place an agreement with provisions that prevent an employee from working with a competing business after leaving service, but there are limitations. Any non-compete clauses must be reasonable and must only limit conduct in a way necessary to protect legitimate business and legal interests. With this in mind the clauses must be limited in duration, geographical scope and the nature of the restriction. Restrictions of more than six months are unlikely to be upheld and the employer would have to prove they have been disadvantaged to make a monetary claim. Any penalty can only be enforced by way of a court ruling and the employer would have to bear the cost of making a legal claim.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 20 years’ experience. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE.

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.

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