The UAE government last year announced a decree-law to protect the rights of employees in the private sector within the post-pandemic setting. If you’re working in the UAE, you should know the employment laws and regulations that offer various benefits to workers, including paternity leave and exemption of legal fees. Let’s find out more about what amendments were made in the UAE Labour Law of 2021/2022.
DISCLAIMER: The information stated below is based on the provisions of the Federal Decree-Law no. 33 of 2021. However, certain subjects might still await further clarity in the law.
UAE LABOUR LAW2022: AN OVERVIEW
The second UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, H.H. Late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (may he forever rest in peace), issued the Federal Decree-Law no. 33 of 2021 to regulate the labour laws in the private sector.
This legislation took effect on 2nd February 2022. The post-COVID-19 workplace regulations include the following:
Flexible work hours
Different work models
Updated regulations for part-time/temporary work safeguarding employee rights
Updated leaves policy
Termination rules during probation
Condensed work weeks
Equal pay for men and women
According to the Ministry of Human Resource and Emiratisation(MOHRE), implementing the UAE Labour Laws 2022 will pave the way for the future growth and prosperity of the ever-evolving workforce in the country. Besides attracting new talent, these laws emphasise gender equality at work.
PROVISIONS UNDER THE UAE LABOUR LAW 2022
COERCION IN THE WORKPLACE
Article 74 of the decree prohibits employers from all forms of coercion in the workplace. An employer may not threaten the worker with a penalty or force them to provide a service against their will.
In addition, employers cannot force employees to work overtime exceeding two hours per day. In case the job requires additional hours, the employer must compensate with an hourly pay of 25% of the employee’s regular hourly income.
Furthermore, employers are no longer allowed to withhold any documents of the employees, such as passports. They cannot charge employees any recruitment fees either.
Under this law, all forms of workplace harassment against an employee are strictly prohibited. That includes sexual harassment, bullying and any form of verbal, physical or psychological violence against a worker by the employer, their superiors or colleagues.
DISCRIMINATION AND PREJUDICE
The legislation outlaws discrimination based on gender, religion, national origin, socioeconomic status, handicap, colour or race that may limit equal opportunities or obstruct the deliverance of equal rights.
The law also prohibits the termination of female employees based on their pregnancy or maternity leave.
EQUAL PAY FOR MEN AND WOMEN
In addition, the amendments in the UAE Labour law accentuate the equal pay provision for men and women as defined under the law previously. These changes stress that all conditions governing the employment of workers shall apply to working women in the UAE, without any discrimination or violation of the prescribed rights of working women.
UAE labour law also granted women the same wage as men if they are doing the same work or work of equal value, as established by the Council of Members.
EASE OF BUSINESS AND LABOUR MARKET FLEXIBILITY
The labour law 2022 divides the employment market into six different work models that include:
Under the Decree’s regulations, terms related to annual leaves and severance pay are to be decided based on the employment model to protect the rights of the employer and the employee.
DEFINING PART-TIME, TEMPORARY AND FLEXIBLE WORKMODELS
Here’s an overview of the different working models under the 2022 law.
Full-time work: Employment with a single employer for the entirety of daily working shifts.
Part-time work: Working under one or more employment contracts for specific working hours/days.
Temporary work: Employment ends upon completing specified contractual hours or project(s).
Flexible work: Employment allows working days and hours to change based on operational workload and requirements.
Remote work: Employees can fully or partially work from outside the office, city and/or country.
Job-sharing work: Employment duties and tasks are divided among more than one employee to cater to mutually agreed business needs and/or projects.
MAXIMUM WORK HOURS
It’s also essential to note that the maximum work hours are 48 hours per week and 8 hours per day (9 hours including lunch break) under Article 17 (1) of the Federal Decree-Law No (33) of 2021 on the Regulation of Labour Relations (the “New Employment Law.”) During the Holy Month of Ramadan, work duration has to be reduced by 2 hours.
The work rule also comes under Article 7, clause 1 of the Federal Decree-Law No (47) of 2021.
However, Article 7(2) of the New Employment Law also suggests that the Cabinet may increase or decrease the daily work hours for particular economic sectors/categories or workers with the minister’s proposal and in coordination with the concerned company.
The updated law stipulates that a fixed-term contract (limited) should not exceed three years. If both parties agree, the contract can be renewed or extended for a similar or shorter amount of time.
The provisions of the decree-law apply to employment contracts of indefinite duration as concluded under Federal Law No (8) of 1980.
According to the amendments, unlimited employment contracts are to be converted into fixed-term employment contracts. Within one year of the agreement’s effective date, these contracts must comply with the restrictions, controls and processes outlined in the decree by law. They may be extended for longer durations by the Council of Ministers if necessary (in the public interest).
The labour law 2022 implements the following rulings on probation:
The worker’s probationary period in the UAE must not exceed six months.
The employer must give a two-week notice to the employee on account of termination during probation.
Employees who wish to quit during probation must serve a 30-day notice period.
A 14-day notice period has to be served if the employee decides to leave the country during probation.
Suppose an employee resigns and leaves the country but returns within 180 days to work for another company. In that case, the new employer has to compensate the new employer for the visa costs and other expenses.
Notice periods, in any case, must not exceed three months.
Employers can now serve a termination notice during the employee’s leave period. However, the notice period will only begin once the employee returns to work after the leaves.
The employer can now terminate employment contracts without prior notice for the ten reasons listed under article 120 of the original labour law. However, even under these circumstances, the employer is bound to pay, where due, the end of service benefits to the employee.
Employees can terminate their employment contract without notice under specific conditions, including a significant change in job responsibilities, without written consent from the employee.
NON-DISCLOSURE AND NON-COMPETITIVE CLAUSE
According to the UAE Labour Law 2022, an employer has the right to add a non-compete clause to the employment contract. Notably, the provision only applies if the work entrusted to the worker allows them to gain sensitive information about the employer’s clients or trade secrets.
Unless a condition as such is specified in terms of time, place and type of work to the extent necessary to protect legitimate business interests, the period of non-competition shall not exceed two years from the date of contract expiry.
The MoHRE issues 12 types of work permits, depending on the nature of work and work model an employee is recruited for. These work permits include:
A standard permit for bringing overseas workers into the country for employment.
The work permit to transfer a non-national (expat) worker between Ministry-registered establishments.
A work permit for people living in the country on their relatives’ residence.
The temporary work permit for those employed on a temporary work model.
A project work permit for Ministry-registered establishments that wish to recruit overseas worker(s) for a specific, fixed-period project.
The part-time work permit for those on the part-time work model. The permit allows employees to work for more than one employer.
The juvenile work permit will allow youngsters aged 15 to 18 to work at a Ministry-registered facility under the legal regulations and controls.
The training and employment permit for students will allow Ministry-registered establishments to train and/or employ a UAE student aged 15 and above, following the legal regulations and controls.
A work permit for GCC citizens/children allows them to be employed at Ministry-registered establishments.
A work permit for golden residence holders to be issued at the request of a Ministry-registered entity.
National trainees work permit for Ministry-registered institutions that want to train citizens based on scientific qualifications.
The self-employment permit allows individuals to work independently without a sponsor.
WORKER WELFARE UNDER THE LABOUR LAW IN THE UAE 2022
Worker welfare sits at the core of the amendments to the UAE Labour Law 2022. The decree includes clauses associated with worker welfare. It also ensures health and safety measures for all workers in the private sector. Here are some of the provisions related to employee welfare.
LEAVE AND REST DAYS DEFINED
According to the 2022 labour laws and regulations, all employees are entitled to the following leaves.
Five days because of the death of a spouse.
Three days because of the death of a close family (mother, father, siblings, child, grandparents).
Up to 5 days of paternity leave to be taken intermittently or concurrently over six months after childbirth.
Additional 45-day unpaid leave allowed in case of illness (mother and child) – supporting documents are required.
Mothers with babies born with disabilities can take a further fully paid 30-day leave. This can be extended to 30 additional days without pay.
A 10-day study leaves for employees studying in state-approved educational facilities, given their service tenure for the current employer is more than two years.
NATIONAL DUTY LEAVES
UAE nationals working for private companies are entitled to full-time leave for national service. Proof of service is required.
No changes were made to the UAE’s sick leaves law in the employment laws 2022.
EMPLOYEE’S EASE OF MOVEMENT
The law deems it illegal and prohibits employers from withholding employees’ official documents such as passports or forcing workers to leave the country at the end of an employment contract.
The law also allows the worker to have the right to obtain their wages on the due date under regulations approved by the Ministry and according to the procedures and conditions issued by the Executive Regulations of the Federal Decree-Law no. 33 of 2021.
In addition, the employees are now allowed to stay in the country for 180 days after the termination of employment without incurring overstay fines on their visas. This period was previously limited to 30 days.
END OF SERVICE BENEFITS
According to the UAE Labour Law 2022, the workers’ right to receive the end of service benefits, including gratuity, has been further secured with the following changes:
Employees cannot be terminated without end-of-service benefits (EOSB) payment.
Where EOSB are due, the employer cannot reduce or deduct the gratuity amount based on the employee’s contract type and/or resignation date.
All end of service benefits of an employee must be paid within 14 days of the end of employment.
In case of end of employment on account of the death of an employee, the entitlements must be paid to the deceased’s family after deduction of body repatriation costs (where applicable).
If an employee lives in employer-paid accommodation, the employee is allowed 30 days from the end of the contract to vacate it.
The calculation of gratuity in the UAE remains unchanged (to be calculated by legislation that regulates pensions and social security). However, end of service benefits in the UAE can now be paid in any currency chosen by the employee, as long as it is mutually agreed upon in the employment contract.
EXEMPTION OF LITIGATION FEES
Based on the 2022 law, any labour cases or petitions filed against the employer by the employee and/or their legal heirs are exempt from judicial fees in all stages of litigation and execution and requests, as long as the claim value does not exceed AED 100,000.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHEN DID THE NEW LABOUR LAWS 2022 COME INTO EFFECT?
The UAE Labour Laws 2022 became effective on 2nd February 2022.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL AGE TO WORK IN DUBAI?
The labour law stipulates that the minimum legal age for working in Dubai for full-time employment is 18 years and above. Students in Dubai between the ages of 15 to 18 may get a temporary work permit known as a Juvenile Work Permit, which can only be valid for one year.
That concludes our guide to the UAE Labour Law 2022. Please visit the official MOHRE website to learn more about these changes. For better clarity, you can also read our comprehensive guide to UAE employment laws.