|13 August, 2019

Freelancers, firms in UAE raise need for a framework on payment

Freelancers in the UAE face lack of payment from companies that provide them work

Image used for illustrative purpose. Arab woman using laptop in office.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Arab woman using laptop in office.

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UAE - A Dubai resident, RD, is a regular freelancer and most sought-after resource for famous agencies in town. But he took out to social media recently to vent out his frustration over delay in payments.

He told Khaleej Times that freelancers in the UAE face lack of payment from companies that provide them work and it has horrible knock-on effects like being unable to pay rent or bills, and having to take out a loan or credit card.

"I was never in debt before freelancing in Dubai. I had one company, which delayed my payment by four months while another company waited for eight months to clear my payment. Unfortunately, this is a systemic issue in the UAE and needs to be changed so that entities and companies must stick to the payment terms of a contractor's invoice. This should be punishable by fine or restricted trading penalties, even when the company is a large one."

MN, another freelancer, shared her experience as she suffered similar plight of having lost her job at a large media outlet and was forced to freelance until she found full-time work.

"I had a retainer that allowed me to cover basic living expenses, and was freelancing in order to "get ahead" and earn some actual money, instead of breaking even after paying my bills. At the same time, as that contract ended, I did a lot of work for a large media company and they took eight months to pay my invoice, which was contracted for 60-day payment terms."

MN said she had to take out a loan, which took her ages to pay off and that meant she was always in a bit of debt when in Dubai. She eventually left the UAE to make a better life for herself.

Lack of proper framework for payments is the sole reason, which has led to the current vent out on the social media.

XY, a top agency owner, suggested that a 50 per cent down payment is the most common, but even 25 per cent at contract signing, then 25 per cent halfway through the project and final settlement at the end of the project would be better than the current scenario.

Currently in Dubai, a lot of freelancers undertake jobs in content writing, video shooting, media relations, photography and creative designs. Many of them volunteer for work as it is indeed a competitive market and people are willing to go the extra mile to get work.

The frustrated freelancers have voiced out their comments on social media, stating that how they had been taken for granted. They said they had no choice but to wait for the money to come. The freelancer community is raising the need to come together and plead for a proper legal framework so that all the stakeholders are protected.

XY also said that the other side of the coin is that at times just because the freelancers are not bound by any law, they tend to take things a bit lightly. Narrating his experience, which he claimed every agency goes through, XY said he hired a freelancer and the client was not happy with the work. "The agency has onus of getting another freelancer on board and ends up paying two people for the same task."

"The unwarranted burden on the agency cannot be highlighted as the job needs to be done and the freelancers have to be paid," he said.

According to both the companies and the freelancers, only solution to the issue is a proper framework that stipulates the conditions of payment for any work done.

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