UAE law: Can I take another job after signing offer letter?

Find out if legal repercussions could be involved.

Question: I accepted and signed an offer letter from a firm based in Dubai. I have not signed an employment contract. However, I have received a better offer of employment from another firm. Can I accept the latter, without attracting any legal repercussions for signing the offer letter received from the former? How do I go about this?

Answer: Pursuant to your queries, we assume that you have accepted and signed a Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (the MOHRE) approved standard format of employment offer letter with a firm based in the mainland of Dubai. Therefore, the provisions of Ministerial Decree No. (764) of 2015 on MOHRE Approved Standard Employment Contracts (the Ministerial Decree No. (764) of 2015) are applicable.

Once the employer and employee sign an offer letter, the next step is to execute a contract. This should contain the same terms as stipulated in the employment offer letter before it is registered.

This is in accordance with Article 4 of the Ministerial Decree No. 764 of 2015, which states: “The employer must retrieve from the ministry system a standard contract that captures exactly the terms of the employment offer and obtain the employee’s signature on the contract prior to presenting it for registration with the Ministry. No alteration or substitution of terms may be entered unless such alteration or substitution benefits the employee and after the alteration or substitution is approved by both the employee and the Ministry.”

Based on the aforementioned provision of law, it may be noted that an executed employment offer letter alone may not be enforceable as a contract. An employment contract registered with the MOHRE may also be required for the offer letter to be legally enforceable.

In the UAE, as per the prevailing practices, the MOHRE may only entertain complaints where an employment contract is registered with it. Therefore, if you have received a better employment offer from another firm, you may accept it.

However, if the employment offer letter which you have signed with the former firm contains a clause pertaining to penalty (where if it is mentioned that any party which breaches the terms of the employment offer letter has to compensate the other party), the firm has the right to file a civil case.

It is recommended that you consult a legal practitioner in the UAE and the MOHRE for further clarifications regarding the said matter.

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: news@khaleejtimes.com or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.

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