Workers in the United Arab Emirates should note that it is against the law for employers to keep passport of their employees.
Therefore, every legal effort should be exercised should it be done without an employee’s consent or without a court order.
“It was stated in a decree by the Ministry of Interior (in December 2002) that it will be considered as an illegal action to retain the passports except by governmental parties. It is a personal travel document that proves the identity of the holder, and the laws stipulate that the bearer must keep his or her passport and present it to the government authorities upon request. In case of holding of passports by anyone without a court order, there will be a suitable punishment by the law,” said Jamie Liddington, head of employment at law firm Hadef & Partners.
Should an employee insist on retaining a subordinate’s passport, the employee has the full right to take legal course of action.
“In the event that an employer has retained an employee’s passport and refuses to return the document, a report could be made to the Ministry of Labour. It is possible to file a petition in the court for an urgent decision by a judge,” Liddington told Emirates 24|7.
Retaining workers’ passports amounts to forcible work in violation of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour, to which the UAE is a signatory.
A passport given to the employer on trust to complete certain formalities must be returned to the worker once these formalities are complete, say legal experts in the country.