UAE Labour Law: What Does “Absconding” Mean?

The UAE amnesty program is currently ongoing, and there’s even a one-stop shop for amnesty seekers in Dubai. Aside from those who have overstayed their visas, workers who have absconded may also apply for amnesty. But what exactly does “absconding” mean?

Today, we will look into the definition of absconding based on the UAE Labour Law. We will also discuss the procedure for reporting absconding workers, the penalties involved, and under what circumstances is an absconding report considered unacceptable by the Labour Department.


All You Need to Know about “Absconding” in the UAE

According to the UAE Labour Law, a worker is said to have “absconded” if he/she does not report for work for more than a week (7 days) without a valid reason. In other words, the employee appears to have gone AWOL (absent without leave).

How to Report an Absconding Worker
If you are an employer whose worker has absconded, here’s what you can do:

  1. Fill out an absconding report and submit it to the local Labour Department.
  2. Attach proof showing that your company does not owe any fines or has paid all previous fines.
  3. Provide a bank guarantee (worth AED 3,000) for every worker reported to be absconding.

NOTE: If the whereabouts of the worker who has absconded are known, go to the Labour Inspection Administration of the Labour Department so that he/she may be apprehended and the details of the case are established.

Refunding a Bank Guarantee
The Ministry of Labour shall refund the bank guarantee to an employer if:

  • It is proven that the absconding worker has left the UAE.
  • Three years have passed since the submission of the absconding report, or the expiration date of the labour card (whichever happens first).

When an Absconding Report is “Unacceptable”
The Labour Department would not accept an absconding report in the following cases:

  • Force majeure
  • The worker is on vacation.
  • The worker has filed a complaint or has a pending claim before the court or the Ministry of Labour.
  • The worker is absent due to a legitimate reason (in cases where the absence is less than 7 consecutive days from the expiration date of a legal absence or leave).
  • The absconding report was issued due to vexatious reasons (e.g. filed to avoid obligations towards a worker who has actually not absconded and continues to work).
  • The absconding report was issued for fictitious reasons (e.g. filed to evade payment of fees after the worker’s contract has ended — without following proper transfer of sponsorship).

Withdrawal of Absconding Report Upon Worker’s Request
The Ministry of Labour may withdraw an absconding report upon the worker’s request if:

  • It is proven that the report was vexatious.
  • It is proven that the report was fictitious.
  • There is a lack of the necessary conditions for a valid absconding report.

In this case, no charges will be brought against the employer. The worker will have his/her labour card cancelled, although he/she will still be able to obtain a work permit from another employer.

For absconding cases, the following penalties apply:

#1 – If the absconding notice was found to be vexatious or fictitious, the employer would have to pay a fine of AED 10,000.

#2 – If a worker is caught working for another employer and his/her previous one did not submit an absconding report for more than 3 months:

  • The worker’s sponsorship will be cancelled.
  • The worker shall be banned from working in the country for 1 year.
  • The employer would have to pay for the sponsorship cancellation fees and travel expenses of the worker.
  • The employer would have to pay AED 10,000 along with any outstanding fines.
  • The employer’s company/establishment would be changed to category (c), which is subject to harsher penalties if they break labour law rules.

#3 – If the absconding report is found to be fake:

  • The worker will be banned permanently from working in the UAE.
  • The employer would have to pay AED 10,000 along with any outstanding fines.
  • The employer’s company/establishment would be closed.

Moreover, if an absconding report is cancelled or withdrawn (whether upon the request of an employer or worker), the employer’s bank guarantee would not be refunded.

DISCLAIMER: The details presented above are for information-sharing purposes only. To know more about absconding and other labour-related matters, please read the UAE Labour Law.

If you are one of those who have absconded but would like to legalise your status, consider filing for amnesty. To learn more about this program, please check out these FAQs about UAE amnesty.

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