By the dictionary meaning of it, absconding means leaving hurriedly and secretly, generally without any prior notice or information. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), if an employer is absent from the workplace for seven days consecutively, the respective employer has the right to report the employee absconding. Shocking, but it is as simple as it sounds. There can be numerous reasons for an employer to not be present on the office premises, for example, injuries, accidents or severe illness, or family duties and responsibilities.
The reasons mentioned above can’t be grounds for an absconding report to be filed by an employer. Hence, absconding from a legal perspective means not showing up for work without any valid reason or without informing your Manager or HR in advance. The employee must notify the right person about the absence and the reason behind it.
The Federal Law number 8 of 1980 of Concerning the Regulation of Labour Relations, also called UAE Labour Law, is the umbrella under which all labour concerns and issues fall along with rules to govern the employees’ labour rights in the private sector. Further, the Ministry of Human Resource and Emiratisation (MoHRE), priorly famous as the Ministry of Labour, is duly responsible for taking care and supervising the relations between the employer and the employee and overseeing that the labour rights are protected and practised in the private sector. All matters relating to labour law like issues with work hours, vacations or leaves, sick leaves, juvenile employment, leave for maternity purposes, records of the employee, safety standards, termination of employment, and end of service gratuity payments are addressed by the UAE Labour Law. As per article 3 of the UAE Labour Law, the UAE labour shall apply to all the employees who are working in the UAE, including the nationals. However, there are some exemptions to this, and specific categories of employees do not come under this law but might have to follow another set of regulations.
There are six types of visa bans in the UAE that can be imposed on non-residents, namely One-year ban, six-month ban, immigration ban, Labour ban, and permanent residency ban. All these bans are implemented with respect to various labour offences that an employee can commit. For instance, non-completion of the contract term by the employee, illegally termination of the employment contract by the employee, not adhering to the provisions of the UAE Labour Law, not serving the notice period mentioned in his contract, terminating his limited contract before the end of its due date, committed any of the violations listed in article 120 of the UAE Labour Law or worked with another company without obtaining a work permit from MoHRE or if the employee leaves the job without any legally binding reasons or in case the employee becomes absconding, etc. it is essential to note that if a ban is imposed of an employee only his sponsor can remove it or the ban gets lifted automatically as soon as the ban period lapses. Also, the ban period is considered to start as soon as the employee leaves the country. It should be noted that a labour ban is not only limited to individuals who have employment residence visas but also can be imposed on individuals who have a labour permit, labour card, or a labour contract.
The employee also has a right to contest the labour ban by submitting a grievance with all the supporting documents to MoHRE via tasheel centre or on their online portal, proving that the ban imposed on him is wrong. Once MoHRE receives the grievance report, they will set up a special committee to analyze the request and decide. Later on, the grieved employee will be notified about the same. Importantly, all matters about absconding employees are governed by the provisions mentioned in the Ministerial Resolution No. (721) for 2006 of the UAE Labour Law on Escape Report Procedures, which the Ministry of Labour of UAE (Ministerial Resolution) issued. According to Article 1 of the Ministerial Resolution, an escape report applies to the employee who has stopped coming to work for more than seven consecutive days if the employer swears that he does not know his whereabouts. Hence, tagging an employee absconding is a type of labour ban. To impose absconding on the employee, the employer will have to provide prima facie evidence that the said employee is absconding and proof that the employee is still in the UAE. This is by article 120 of the UAE Labour Law. As per article 128, if the contract is limited and the employer tags the employee as absconding, in case he is proven so, the employee cannot work in the country for a year, starting from the time of reporting. Any employer cannot hire further such an employee in that one year. If the employee is not in the country, no absconding case can be done on him; still, the employer can request MoHRE at the time of cancelling the visa of the employee to impose a one-year ban on him.
There is also a limitation attached to tagging someone absconding, i.e., employers have three months to report an absconding case for the MoHRE to consider. Since every coin has two sides, the employee is also given a chance to state their side of the story if the employer has wrongfully or maliciously put an absconding tag on him. The employee can go to MoHRE and register his grievance along with supporting documents to claim his innocence if the employee can provide the MoHRE with valid proof that he attended work or informed the concerned management, or was absent due to some reasonable cause the MoHRE might consider. It is established that resigning without resignation or not serving the notice period can also be grounds for an employer to report absconding. Similarly, if the employee is unskilled, leaving the job before six months can involve the same risks. According to a resolution passed in 2016, the employee can now break the contract before completing six months if you have a mutual agreement with your employer. This clause is dependent on the skill level of the employee as defined by labour law. For example, Skill level 1 (any degree higher than under-graduation), 2 (diplomas acquired in any field), and 3 (higher-secondary or high-school) can use this clause to prevent a ban. In contrast, Skill levels 4 and 5 (with no formal education on record) will get a ban if they break an employment contract before completing at least six months and then serving notice as agreed. Once the absconding charges are proved, the MoHRE will take disciplinary action against the employee, which may include cancelling the work permit or imposition of an employment ban. However, the employer must be aware that filing a fake absconding report against an employee can attract a lot of trouble. If it is found that an absconding report was wrongfully filed, the employer can be charged a fine of Dirhams ten thousand (AED 10,000), and the company or the corporation be blocked by the MoHRE till such a fine is paid. The category of the company will also be changed to type C.
Therefore; all employers should refrain from filling a fake absconding report. Interestingly, the employer can cancel the absconding report by giving an endorsement that they committed a mistake in the report like wrong name or incomplete credentials or the employee was hospitalized or was detained due to some reasonable cause. Relevantly, the labour ban is entirely exclusive and different from the bans that are imposed by the Directorate of Residency and Foreign affairs (those are the bans based on severe criminal offences concerning security reasons). Hence all the employees and employers should strive to abide by the rules and regulations laid down by the UAE government to run the corporation successfully and peacefully.