There has been a lot of movement on the employment front over the past 2 weeks, as a result of the effects of the Covid-19 on both business performance and staff working conditions – from employees being asked to take unpaid leave to a change in contract/reduction in salary.
Here is a little snapshot of what we have seen, as HR Consultants, across companies here in the UAE. We have to remember of course that these are unprecedented times, and everyone is learning as they go along. The overriding criteria I suppose is one of empathy and compassion – employers that have shown this, have obviously gained staff loyalty.
From an employers point of view, revenues have been hit, they don’t quite know, when revenues will pick up again – and they are as concerned about paying ‘their bills, which include salaries’, as much as employees are about paying their utilities/rent/necessities.
So, going back to impact on employees:
Now, putting a pragmatic hat on, if an employee refuses to agree to take unpaid leave – the employer can of course make staff redundant (yes, you will get paid the statutory notice period etc.) – but it is a risk; will you be able to find another role quickly?
I spoke to the Ministry of Labour again yesterday, and they too confirmed that any changes in the contract needs to be mutually agreed by the employee and employer.
There are exceptions including if an employee cannot get back into the country due to travel restrictions, and they can’t work remotely, then an employer can ask them to take unpaid leave, once paid leave is finished.
Reduction in Salary
Working from home
As long as an employee can efficiently do their job – they should be allowed to work from home, ‘should’. Companies have already implemented a ‘remote working’ policy. Obligations – an employer does need to provide the employee with the equipment (laptop etc) to be able to complete their job.
It is worth remembering that COVID -19 is unlikely to be classified as an occupational disease under the UAE labour law.
I keep going back to empathy, as I firmly believe that this is what will get us all through this – employers and employees. The old saying ‘Do to others as you want others to do to you. We’re all in this together and COVID-19 has no exceptions or favourites. Everyone is impacted in some way, shape or form.
I have written this through our HR lens; we are not legal experts. If you are unsure of your position, I am as always more than happy to have a chat (email@example.com) – we don’t want anything in return, it is our way of helping the community as and when we can. xx
Written by British mum and Senior HR and Management Consultant at GGC Consulting, Dubai, Rohini Bhalla-Gill.