Welcome to United Arab Emirates Labor Law
Welcome to the United Arab Emirates Labor Law website! Here you can find information pertaining to the United Arab Emirates Labor Law both in the private sector and public sector as promulgated by the Ministry of Labour. This page will be continuously updated to communicate any new advancements to the UAE Labor Law.
The goal of our website is to inform both citizens and expatriates of their rights and privileges as employees in the UAE to ensure that they are able to maintain a congruous workplace environment. Firms and companies may also find the resources provided herein beneficial for hiring legal and competent labor for the private sector within the UAE. A thorough understanding of the UAE Labor Law can facilitate healthier and more productive relationships between employers and employees.
The United Arab Emirates Labor Law website also contains resources for understanding the current economic situation in the UAE Labor Law, migrant rights, and other helpful tools to assist with further analysis of labor related functions in the country. The full text version of the UAE Labor Law including its amending texts is available on the site.
Employment matters in the UAE are governed by Federal Law No. 8 of 1980, often referred to as the Law. All amendments to the Law have been incorporated into official publications of the Law; they include:
- Federal Law No. 24 of 1981, dated 07 November 1981
- Federal Law No. 15 of 1985, dated 15 December 1985
- Federal Law No. 12 of 1986, dated 27 October 1986
- Federal Law No. 14 of 1999, dated 17 October 1999
However, the UAE has adopted multiple measures, decrees, and resolutions to increase worker protections and clarify the existing Law. The most recent updates are as follows:
Ministerial Decree No. (766) of 2015 on Rules and Conditions for granting a permit to a worker for employment by a new employer, issued 27 September 27 2015, clarifies and expands the circumstances in which a worker cannot face a labor ban in the UAE.
Ministerial Decree No. (765) of 2015 on Rules and Conditions for the Termination of Employment Relations, issued 27 September 2015, clarifies the termination provisions for both unlimited and limited contracts.
Ministerial Decree No. (764) of 2015 on Ministry of Labour approved Standard Employment Contracts, issued 27 September 2015, creates a standard employment contract as well as the conditions for amending the contract through the Ministry of Labour.
Federal Law No. 1 of 2015 amending some provisions of Federal Law No. 51 of 2006 on Combating Human Trafficking Crimes, signed 28 January 2015, criminalizes those who use deception, fraud, coercion, or even threats such as deportation to manipulate vulnerable people into exploitative labor conditions.
Ministerial Decree No. (788) of 2009 on Protection of Wages, issued 20 July 2009, creates a Wage Protection System (WPS) to address the issue of nonpayment of salaries.
The following list includes all other additional texts, government decrees, and ministerial orders which have complemented the Labor Law:
- Administrative Circular No. 2 of 2008 in regard to enforcing Arabic as an official language, issued on 18 May 2008, states that Arabic shall be used as the official language for all communications with the Ministry
- Ministerial Order No. 57 of 1987 on the licensing of mediation and recruitment, and supply of non-national labor, adopted 1987.
- Ministerial Order No. 18 of 1989 concerning the increase in work permits charges and the delay fines pertaining thereto, adopted 1989.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 52 of 1989 on the rules and procedures to be adopted at the labor permits sections with respect to the recruitment of non-national labors for employment in the UAE, adopted 1989.
- Ministerial Order No. 155 of 1993 concerning additional charges on work permits and delay fines, adopted 1993.
- Ministerial Order No. 1 of 1994 on increase in labor charges, adopted 1994.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 467 of 1995 to amend Ministerial Resolution No. 52 of 1989, issued 19 August 1995
- Ministerial Resolution No. 951 of 2003 regarding investors, dated 24 December 2003.
- Administrative Circular No. 77 of 2005, regarding employment of foreign workers on missions, dated 20 July 2005.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 370 of 2005, regarding the special mission entry permit dated 30 May 2005.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 92 of 2006, concerning work permits, dated 25 January 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 764 of 2006 in regards to the applications of replacement, dated 19 October 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 849 of 2006, on unused work permits, dated 21 December 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 468 of 2007, on granting of work permits, dated 23 July 2007.
- Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 25 of 2010 on concerning internal work permits applicable in the Ministry of Labour, dated 11 August 2010
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1186 of 2010 on rules and conditions for granting a new work permit to an employee after termination of the work relationship in order to move from one establishment to another, issued on 29 November 2010
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1188 of 2010 on regulations and conditions for the issuance of domestic work permits, issued on 29 November 2010.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 424 of 2005, regarding the elimination of the requirement of obtaining a high school diploma for simple manual labor, dated 14 June 2005
- Ministerial Resolution No. 240 of 2008 with Ministerial Resolution No. 851 of 2005 regarding the approval of the certificates, dated 21 April 2008
- Administrative Circular No. 1 of 2001, clarifies the terms of Article 127 of Federal Law No. 8 of 1980
- Ministerial Order No. 70 of 1992 on the commandment of the employer to provide a bank guarantee to cover air tickets to absconding labors at the time of notifying such abscondment, adopted 1992.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 444 of 2006 regarding the rules and procedures for fee exemption, dated 25 June 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 812 of 2006, regarding the rules and procedures for exemption from fines, dated 11 December 2012.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 604 of 2007 on adding a case to the rules and procedures of fees exemption, dated 25 September 2007.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 968 of 2009 on the amendment of Ministerial Resolution No. 444 for 2006 regarding the rules and procedures for fees exemption, issued 6 September 2009.
- Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 26 for 2010 on regulating labor relations and determined banking guarantees, ratified on 11 August 2010.
- Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 27 for 2010 on the fees and penalties for services provided by the Ministry of Labour, issued 11 August 2010.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 500 of 2005, on labor card cancellation and expiry, dated 13 July 2005.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 707 of 2006 regarding the rules and procedures of conducting business in the state for non-citizens, dated 6 September 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 721 of 2006 on escape reports procedures, dated 11 September 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 724 of 2006 on the administrative cancellation of sponsorship, dated 10 September 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 636 of 2008 regarding the amendment of Ministerial Resolution No. 707 of 2006, dated 15 September 2008.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 42/1 of 1980 on determining the method of spending the sum of the fines deducted from workers, adopted 1980.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 51/1 of 1980 on defining the means of spending financial differences benefitting the employer as a result of deprivation of promotion and deprivation or postponement of bonus, adopted 1980.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 28/1 of 1981 on issuing the model regulation for sanctions to guide employer in setting the sanctions regulations for their facilities, adopted 1981.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 851 of 2001 on ceasing to deal with violating facilities, adopted 2001.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 589 of 2007, dated 17 September 2007.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 255 of 2010 for sub-contracting construction contracts, dated 30 March 2010.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 256 of 2010 regarding statutes and regulations for penalties, dated 30 March 2010.
- Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 10 of 2012 to amend some provisions of cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 27 of 2010 regarding fees and fines on services provided by the Ministry of Labour, issued 1 May 2012.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1283 of 2010 on licensing and regulation of private recruitment agencies, issued 23 December 2010.
- Ministerial Circular No. 2 of 2006, dated 25 January 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 757 of 2006 on the facility card system, dated 11 October 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 810 of 2006, dated 11 December 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 633 of 2008 on the amendment of Ministerial Resolution No. 757 of 2006, dated 15 September 2008.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 702 of 2008 on electronic facilities, issued 28 October 2008.
- Ministerial Decision No. 50/1 of 1980 on the establishment of divisions for the recruitment of nationals and determining the rules and procedures to be complied with, adopted 1980.
- Ministerial Decision No. 71/2 of 1982 on training of nationals in the existing establishment in the State, adopted 1982.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 41 of 2005 on occupational quota in the trade sector, 30 January 2005.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 42 of 2005 on occupational quota in the insurance sector, 30 January 2005.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 43 of 2005 on occupational quota in the banking sector, 30 January 2005.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1216 of 2005 on the rules and procedures of the employment contracts of nationals, dated 26 December 2005.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 275 of 2006, dated 25 February 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 442 of 2006 on the Directors of Human Resources and the Directors and Officials of employees Affairs in the Private Sector, dated 24 June 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 443 of 2006 on secretarial jobs in the private sector, dated 24 June 2006.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 635 of 2008 regarding the public relations officials, issued 15 September 2008.
- Ministerial Order No. 293 of 2015, regulating the conditions of employment of UAE national workers, signed 30 April 2015.
- Ministerial Order No. 48/1 of 1980 on the formation of a Conciliation Board for the settlement of collective disputes, adopted 1980.
- Council of Ministers Order No. 11 of 1982 to regulate proceeding and other rules necessary for the good progress of work before Conciliation Boards and Supreme Arbitration Board for the settlement of collective disputes, adopted 1982.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 307 of 2003 on collective labor disputes, dated 31 May 2003.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 4/1 of 1981 on defining works that are hazardous or in which it is permissible to reduce the legally decided working hours, dated 6 January 1981.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 27/1 of 1981 on determining remote areas as mentioned in the law regulation work relationships No. 8 of 1980, dated 19 April 1981.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 37/2 of 1982 regarding the level of medical attention the employer is obliged to provide his workers, dated 17 July 1982.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 32 of 1982 on determining prevention means and measures to protect workers from work hazards, adopted 1982.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 46/1 of 1980 on defining the works in which women can be employed at the time between 10 PM and 7 AM, adopted 1980.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 47/1 of 1980 on exempting some institutions from some of the provisions stipulated in the law organizing the relations pertaining to employing minors and women, adopted 1980.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 5/1 of 1981 on defining works that are hazardous, arduous, or harmful to the health and where minors are prohibited to work, dated 6 January 1981.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 6/1 of 1981 on defining work that is hazardous, tiresome, or harmful to health or morals, and where women should not be employed therein, dated 6 January 1981.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1189 of 2010 on regulations and conditions for issuing work permits to minors, issued on 29 November, 2010.
- Ministerial Resolution No 49/1 of 1980 on determining the jobs where work must continue without halting and how to give the workers breaks for rest, food, and prayer, adopted 1980.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 235 of 1984 to amend some of the provisions related to Ministerial Resolution No. 7/1 of 1981 on the exempted categories from the provision related to working hours, adopted 1984.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1215 of 2005 on registering the nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council countries working in the private sector, dated 26 December 2005.
- Ministerial Circular No. 3 of 2007, dated 20 May 2007.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 4 of 2007 on permitting Gulf Cooperation Council countries nationals on practicing economic activities and professions in the country, issued 14 January 2007.
- Ministerial Order No. 292 of 2015 regulating the conditions of employment of Gulf Cooperation Council national employees, signed 30 April 2015.
Specific Categories of Workers
- Federal Law No. 7 of 2012 concerning regulating expertise profession before the judicial authorities, issued 10 October 2012.
- Federal Law No . 6 of 2012 regulating profession of translator, issued 10 October 2012.
- Federal Law No. 12 of 2014 concerning auditing profession law, issued 30 November 2014.
- Federal Law No. 3 of 2013 concerning the establishment of Emirates Post Group, adopted 3 April 2013.
- Federal Law No. 2 of 2014 concerning small and medium enterprises, dated 16 March 2014.
About the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is located in the Arabian Peninsula and is one of the six member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Prior to 1971, the UAE consisted of seven emirates, or sheikhdoms, known as the Trucial States under a British protectorate. Following their independence on 2 December 1971, six of the emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah, combined to form the UAE. The seventh emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the federation on 10 February 1972. The UAE is governed by a Federal monarchy in which each emirate is governed by their own absolute monarch; together these monarchs form the Federal Supreme Council. The Federal Supreme council selects one of the monarchs to rule the constituent states of the federation as President of the United Arab Emirates. The current position is held by Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Emir of Abu Dhabi, who replaced his late father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first President and founder of the UAE, on 3 November 2004. Dubai is the largest city in the UAE; however, Abu Dhabi is the capital, which is the largest of the seven emirates and the second largest city in the country. Sunni Islam is the majority religion and the Dirham (AED), first introduced on 19 May 1973, is the official currency of the UAE. Arabic is the national language; however, English is widely spoken as, according to 2015 estimates, over 88% of the UAE’s 8.26 million residents are expatriates.
Early history of the UAE is synonymous with the nomadic, herding, and fishing lifestyles found throughout the breadth of the region. Remnants of the Umm al-Nar, a bronze age culture, have been discovered throughout the region and date back as far as the 3rd millennium BC. In time, the Bedouin tribe, translated from Arabic to desert-dwellers, would emerge as the principal pillars for modern day UAE society.
Islam was introduced to the region in AD 632 bringing with it Arabic language, writing, and Islamic art. The newly converted region, specifically Julfar, known today as Ras al-Khaimah, became the basis for the Islamic conquest of Persia, or present day Iran. The increased interest in the city aided Julfar in becoming a wealthy port and pearling center.
Until the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498, the region of the UAE was under the influence of the Ottoman Empire. Portuguese annexation of Julfar in 1515 was met with bloody conflict and European taxation of the Gulf’s trade with India and the Far East. Portuguese rule lasted over 100 years until the rise of the Al Qasimi and the Bani Yas, ancestors of four of the seven UAE Emirates.
European desire to colonize the area continued as the British struggled to gain control. In 1820, the British signed a General Treaty of Peace on the nine Arab sheikhdoms redefining the region as the Trucial Coast specifically in an attempt to protect their links to India, combat piracy, and remove any European competitors from the area.
Pearling thrived as the main industry for the people of the Persian Gulf; however, the rapid decline of pearl fishing was brought about by World War I, the Japanese cultivation of cultured pearls, and the Great Depression. The pearling industry was dealt its final blow at the end of the Second World War when the Government of India was granted autonomy from the United Kingdom and imposed a heavy importation tax on pearls from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The decline of pearling was devastating for the region, allowing little opportunity to build any infrastructure.
The 1930s brought interest in the exploration and development oil and other natural resources. Recent oil discoveries in surrounding countries prompted British-led oil company, Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), to begin undertaking preliminary geological surveys of the region. However, complications with border disputes between Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the present day UAE region, World War II, and restriction imposed by the Red Line Agreement suppressed the inevitable growth of the industry in the years to come.
The region did not begin seeing returns from the oil industry until 1962 when Abu Dhabi exported their first cargo of crude oil. Abu Dhabi quickly evolved from being the poorest of the emirates to the richest. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan began revolutionizing Abu Dhabi through oil revenues, developing the infrastructure the area lacked by building schools, housing, roads, and hospitals. In addition, Sheikh Zayed increased contributions to the Trucial States Development Fund making Abu Dhabi the largest donor.
Former ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, in an attempt to replace pearling revenues, began developing shipping as Dubai’s principal industry. Once Dubai discovered their own oil in 1969, they were able to capitalize on their reputation as one of the region’s busiest trading posts. Dubai quickly followed Abu Dhabi’s lead, investing their new revenues into drastically raising the quality of life for its inhabitants and shaping Dubai into the global city it is today.
16 January 1968 ended the United Kingdom’s arbitration between Eastern Gulf leaders, responsibility of defense and foreign policy, and the end of the British protectorate. The announcement was followed by two years of frantic negotiations and meetings to fill the British power vacuum. Rulers Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi and Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai were the first to agree on a principle union of the previous nine states; however, Bahrain and Qatar withdrew from all negotiations, leaving the six original emirates to join in the Act of Union which formed the United Arab Emirates. Ras Al Khaimah was the seventh and final emirate to join the UAE on 10 February 1972.
Today, a prominent national identity has been forged between the seven Emirates with a political system combining both traditional aspects as well as modern developments to build a sophisticated administrative structure while embracing, honoring, and adapting the cultural foundations that built their society.
In the past fifty years, the UAE has rapidly developed from a small tribal culture to a colossal enterprise whose entrepreneurial skills have aided the country in developing world-class infrastructure.
The government, referred to as a federal presidential elected monarchy, elects one of the seven absolute monarchs (each representing one of the seven Emirates) who comprise the Federal Supreme Council (FSC) to rule as the president of the country. Current chief of state and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, stepped into power in 2004 following the death of his father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of the UAE since the country’s formation. Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, currently holds the title of both Vice President, decided by the FSC, as well as Prime Minister. The prime minister, with consultation of the president, elects the Cabinet of the United Arab Emirates, or Council of Ministers, which is comprised of twenty-two members and overseen by the prime minister.
The Federal Supreme Council, which establishes general policies and sanctions federal legislation, is the highest constitutional body in the UAE. They meet four times per year and hold one meeting every five years to either nominate a new President or reaffirm the existing one. Despite this, the Emirs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai have the ability to veto any elected President among the FSC, creating an unofficial de facto Presidency and Premiership to the Al Nahyan family of Abu Dhabi and Al-Maktoum clan of Dubai.
The FSC appoints twenty members to fill the seats of the Federal National Council (FNC); the other twenty seats are filled by nominees who are elected by members of the electoral college to serve two-year terms. The appointed members hold all of the council’s political power leaving the elected officials with advisory tasks. The elections are not based on a party system, but on individual candidates because political parties are not permitted in the UAE with the exception of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international Islamic political organization whose mission is to re-establish the Caliphate or Islamic state throughout the Muslim world.
Legislative and executive powers are divided not only federally, but also by each emirate jurisdiction. Despite attempts to strengthen federal institutions, each emirate still has significant autonomy.
The UAE legal system is based off of both civil courts, modeled in the style of French, Roman, and Egyptian legal systems, as well as Sharia law, or Islamic law. Sharia law is applied for matters of personal status law, such as marriage, divorce, inheritances, and child custody, which is often applied to non-Muslim expatriates as well.
The Federal Judiciary includes the Federal Supreme Court of Abu Dhabi, which consists of five judges and a president of the Supreme Court appointed by the Federal Supreme Council, the Court of Appeals, and the Courts of First Instance for each emirate. Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah have their own court systems which are not subject to the Federal Supreme Court. The Courts of First Instance have general jurisdiction of their emirate, including the Civil Court, Criminal Court, and Shariah Court. The Court of Appeals, or second degree of litigation, allows parties to appeal decisions of the Court of First Instance based on factual or legal grounds. The final degree of litigation is the Abu Dhabi Federal Supreme Court, or Court of Cassation in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah; all judgements by the Supreme Court and Court of Cassation are final with no further appeal available.
Regarding size, the UAE is comparable to the US state of Maine; however, at roughly per year, the UAE boasts one of the highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the world. The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 was devastating for the UAE, causing cancellations of major property projects, worker layoffs, a government standstill on debt repayments, and doubt for many international investors. Despite this, since 2010 the UAE’s economy has been growing steadily and has recovered to pre-crisis levels.
With approximately 10% of the total known oil reserves in the world within the UAE’s borders, the oil and gas sector contributes to 25% of the UAE’s GDP, with 90% of the oil reserves in Abu Dhabi and 10% in Dubai. At the present rates of production, Abu Dhabi’s reserves could last another hundred years; however, Dubai is expected to last ten years at most.
Fortunately, the UAE is no longer solely dependent on revenue from oil and gas production. The economy of the UAE has developed to encompass tourism, real estate, construction, aviation, re-export commerce, renewable energy, information technology, and telecommunication. In 2009, 85% of the UAE’s economy was based on oil exports; today it is down to 25%, making the UAE the most diversified economy in the Gulf Cooperation Council. On independent levels, both Abu Dhabi, with their Economic Vision 2030, and Dubai, with their Strategic Plan 2021, are taking initiative towards expanding economic diversification. On a federal level, the UAE has created a 2021 Vision to put the UAE as one of the leaders in innovation, research, science, and technology, aiming to create a more productive and competitive economy.
The UAE’s Free Trade Zones have proven to be a valuable asset for the country to attract foreign investors as they offer 100% foreign ownership with no personal income taxes, corporate tax exemptions for up to 50 years, and 100% import and export tax exemptions. Zones are formulated around one or more business industries with licenses only granted to companies that fall under the designated categories. A Free Zone Establishment (FZE) is a limited liability company operating within the Free Zones. Investors have the ability to form both a new company as well as register an existing branch or representative office of their parent company as an FZE. A set of independent regulations, separate from UAE law (with the exception of UAE criminal law), is enforced through an independent Free Zone Authority (FZA) who is assigned to govern each individual zone.
Tourism has been one of the largest successes of the UAE’s economic diversification. In 2015, the annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index reported that Dubai was the fourth most visited city in the world, bringing in 14.26 million international visitors. Dubai, as the top tourist destination in the Middle East, brings in roughly 66% of the UAE’s tourism economy while Abu Dhabi only brings in 16%. Dubai will be hosting the World Expo of 2020, which is expected to bring in 25 million visitors and is the first time that the World Expo will be held in the Middle East. Not only will the Expo drive tourism, but it will also create thousands of new jobs, reviving several substantial projects that were placed on hold during the Global Financial Crisis.
Successful efforts to diversify the economy have provided abundant business opportunities; in conjunction with the strategic location of the UAE, competitive labor costs, and top class infrastructure, the country is continuously appealing for foreign investment.
The central location of the UAE between Asia, Europe, and Africa has secured the area as an international trading hub for hundreds of years. Currently, the location is increasingly beneficial for investors looking to open their economic and trading opportunities with some of the world’s fastest growing economies in Asia such as India and China. Those who open a business within the free trade zones and special economic zones enjoy exemptions from taxes, 100% foreign ownership, and repatriation of profit and capital.
The overall wealth of the country has created a growing retail market with retail sales reaching PHP 2,337.54 () billion in 2012 and expected to reach PHP 3,242.55 () billion in 2018. International companies have an advantage in the UAE as over 88% of the population are expatriates creating a constant influx of new consumer groups and a large demand for international goods.
The progressive tendency towards foreign cooperation, increased measures to protect investments, and modernization of the region have prompted extensive relations with other countries, both commercial and diplomatic. Since 1994, the UAE has been a party to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), as well as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1996, both regulating international trade. Within the region, the UAE plays a significant role in OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Currently, the UAE is ranked 31st in the World Bank’s 2015 Ease of Doing Business Index, putting the UAE significantly higher than any of its neighboring countries and above many established industrialized economies.
Employment of National and Non-National Workers
Following the 1973 oil boom, a large amount of expatriate workers began flowing into the newly formed United Arab Emirates through the temporary guest worker program called the Kafala sponsorship system. As oil prices began to climb, so did the need for foreign workers as the UAE began rapidly developing and taking on large infrastructure and construction projects.
Today, foreign workers make up over 86% of the total UAE population, with expatriate nationals dominating over 40% of the public sector employment and an overwhelming 99.5% of the private sector. The majority of low skilled and semi skilled workers come from Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa; workers from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, and other Western European countries often fill the UAE’s high-skilled positions for banking and finance as well as the oil and gas industry.
In order to protect workers and pressure companies operating within the UAE to pay employees a fair wage, minimum salaries are often set through agreements made by the respective governments of the expatiates country of origin and the UAE Embassy. For example, the Indian government has created an online ratification system for contracts between UAE companies and Indian nationals. Should the contract fail to adhere to the minimum wages set within the drop-down list of the eMigrate Indian recruitment site, the contract will automatically be rejected and the prospective worker will not pass the Emigration Check Required (ECR) to leave India.
In recent years, the UAE has significantly reformed its migration policies due to both increasing security concerns in the region and Emirati national unemployment which has recently reached 9.2%. The UAE government has unveiled an Emiratisation initiative to employ its citizens both in the public and private sector; however, the turnover rate among Emirati workers is higher than expatriates and Emirati workers often demand higher salaries. Additionally, due to government social security payments, many Emirati would prefer to remain unemployed rather than work a menial job. Despite these setbacks, the government has created multiple initiatives including Emirati quotas for certain companies, new jobs which are restricted to local citizens, and multiple training programs to teach Emiratis the skills they need to succeed in the job market.
Although the UAE is a highly cosmopolitan country, traditional cultural norms and Islam are still the foundation of Emirate society. Respect and caution should be exercised at all times to prevent violation of either of these aspects. Initial meetings are crucial for building relationships and developing trust which are the basis on which Emiratis conduct business. Hospitality, a way of life both in Arab life and business, often leads to business being conducted over lunch or dinner, commonly in a hotel or restaurant.
As a sign of respect, the highest-ranking person in the room should always be acknowledged first, subsequently greeting each male in the room. Several styles of greetings are used throughout the UAE so it is recommended that you wait for your counterpart to initiate the greeting. While it is common for men to shake hands, a man should not shake hands with a businesswoman unless she offers her hand first. Traditionally, men greet one another by grasping each other’s right hand, placing the left hand over the other’s right shoulder, and exchange a kiss on each cheek. “As-salamu alaykum,” or peace be upon you, is a standard salutation among Muslims and it is also an appropriate greeting for non-Muslims to use with their hosts; the typical response is, “wa’alaykum as-salam,” meaning peace be upon you, too.
Exchanging business cards and performing hand gestures should be reserved for the right hand since the left hand is considered unclean because it is used for personal hygiene purposes. When sitting, one must also be careful not to cross their legs since it is considered an insult to point your feet at another person in the room or to show the soles of your shoes.
Weekend days in the UAE are Friday and Saturday, since Friday is the holy day of Islam.
Visitors and expatriates alike, while not expected to wear traditional clothing, are required to abide by local standards of modesty. Women should always dress conservatively, preferably with high necklines and sleeves covering the shoulders at a bare minimum. Loose-fitting trousers or a skirt with a hemline below the knee are recommended. Emirati women traditionally wear an abaya, which is a loose-fitting, black robe that covers nearly the entire body with the exception of the hands, face, and feet. A niqab, which is a special fabric piece that covers the entire head and face including the nose and mouth, leaving only the eyes exposed, is worn with the abaya. The hijab, a scarf covering the neck and head often worn in lieu of the abaya, is a less constrictive method for a Muslim woman to demonstrate modesty while still allowing her to expose her face. Among the younger generation of Emirati women, fitted abayas are often worn, even though the original design was intended to prevent any physical shape from being revealed. The abayas are often embroidered with bright colors at the sleeves and are commonly designed by some of the greatest couturiers such as Dior, Pierre Cardin, and Channel among others.
Foreign men are highly discouraged from wearing shorts or sleeveless t-shirts, but it is not technically illegal for them to do so. Although Western fashion is becoming increasingly popular among young Emirati men, the traditional clothing is the dishdasha or thawb, a long white robe, and keffiyeh, which is the accompanying headscarf that is held in place by a thick black cord called an agal.
All public displays of affection, such as kissing or even hugging, are banned in the UAE.
The issue of drinking in the UAE is complex. Although the UAE tolerates non-Muslims drinking as long as they do not cause any issues, legal action will be taken the instant they become even slightly unruly. Non-Muslim residents must apply for a license to consume or purchase alcohol which is valid only within the emirate they have applied with large fines imposed upon those who disobey. While tourists are also required by law to possess a license to consume alcohol, the police rarely enforce this. There is zero tolerance in the UAE for being under the influence of alcohol while driving; consuming even one alcoholic beverage before operating a motor vehicle is considered above the legal limit. Additionally, legal action can be taken against any person showing signs of intoxication in public. Muslims are prohibited from purchasing and consuming alcohol under all circumstances.
Marriage & Family
In accordance with Muslim culture, large and close-knit Emirati families are encouraged by the UAE and can be indicative of an individual’s social standing within the community. The average household in the UAE consists of over six people, with most of the extended family opting to live in the same neighborhood or surrounding areas.
Marriage laws in the UAE tend to grant more flexibility for Muslim males, allowing a male up to four wives and permitting him to enter interfaith unions between women of other religions “of the book,” meaning Christians or Jews. Per contra, women are limited to only one marriage partner as well as prohibited under Sharia Law from marriage outside the Muslim faith. Women are also required to seek permission from their “male guardian” in order to marry or remarry should their previous union end in divorce.
Arranged marriages, which were once the normative, have been on a steady decline in the UAE as more citizens question the effects of such predetermined unions in relation to the high rates of divorce currently seen across the country. Still, the tradition of arranged marriages are a preferred path for many Emirati families as Emirati nationals are strongly discouraged from marrying non-nationals. In order to improve the success rate of newly formed unions and create long-lasting, stable Emirati families, the Marriage Fund was established in 1992 to issue financial grants to Emiratis who marry other nationals.
All Muslim marriages must be conducted in a Sharia court. Non-Muslim residents may arrange for their wedding to be performed in a church, court, or another venue with a wedding license; this often ends up being the embassy of their home country. Rules and regulations vary by nationality so one must consult their embassy first to find out if they require a sworn affidavit and Notice of Marriage to register the wedding. Both residents and nationals who marry in the UAE are required to complete a Marriage Blood Test Certificate to identify any risks such as infectious disease or genetic disorders that may cause complications for a couple as they begin to build their own family.
Gender roles in the UAE, while keeping in step with the worldwide drive for gender equality, still largely reflect the conservative, cultural morals of Islam. Although public primary schools may be co-ed, public secondary schools are always segregated by gender; private schools may segregate their institution with approval from the Cabinet of the Ministry of Education. Both women and men are advised to dress conservatively while in the UAE.
The role of women within the UAE has steadily expanded since the 1960s. In the area of education, 95% of female high-school graduates apply for further tertiary education. Regarding the labor force, more Emirati women are entering roles usually dominated by men such as ambassadors, judges, public prosecutors, police, and the armed forces. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade and President of Zayed University, holds the title of being the first woman in the country to hold a ministerial post, subsequently leading to her rating of 42nd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine.
Despite these advances, a large number of women choose to remain at home and rear children, a role that is compliant with Muslim culture and highly valued in UAE society. Most women who do enter the workforce tend to choose jobs which minimize their interactions with men and limit the time spent commuting from the home, most often in the fields of education, health, and civil service.
In addition to gender roles, the UAE is divided into two main social categories; the first category is the nationals, or Muwatneen, and the second is foreign workers, referred to as expats or Wafedeen. Of the nationals, there are four main social classes which are as follows: the ruling families, who hold the highest positions in society in regard to both politics and prestige, the merchant class, who are generally international traders, the new middle class, made up of professionals, and lastly, the low-income groups or labor class.
Following a dynamic shift in development during the last part of the twentieth century, immense resources have been applied to establishing a modern and sophisticated higher education system. To enhance what the UAE believes to be its most important asset – human capital – all UAE citizens are granted tuition-free admittance to any government institution of higher education. These efforts have led to a substantial application rate with 95% of all girls and 80% of all boys who have enrolled in their final year of secondary school going on to apply for admission to higher education programs.
The UAE’s public universities include: the United Arab Emirates University, often called the flagship of higher education in the country, which was founded in 1976 by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan shortly after gaining independence from Britain, the Higher Colleges of Technology, founded in 1988 and currently holding seventeen branches, and Zayed University, founded in 1998 with one branch in Dubai and one branch in Abu Dhabi. These institutions offer specialties in accordance with the needs of the labor market and their alumni have provided the UAE with a number of business leaders, diplomats, government officials and ministers.
The establishment of Free Zones, which grant licenses to foreign owned business, have provided the country with a significant rise in international students. The former Dubai Knowledge Village, now known as Dubai Knowledge Park, housed several branches from higher education institutions around the world including Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, Iran, Ireland, Pakistan, Russia, and the UK. In 2007, the Dubai International Academic City was created as a base for schools, colleges, and universities including the previous educational institutions from the Dubai Knowledge Village. It is estimated that the number of international students studying in the UAE’s higher education institutions is over 42,000, with 72% of them originating from surrounding Middle Eastern countries.
Along with housing international educational institutions in the UAE, the training and qualification of Emiratis abroad has become a major priority. In order to satisfy the diverse demands of professions which can further the social and economic growth of the UAE, the Scholarship and Cultural Foreign Relations Department (SD) within the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR) has created a scholarship program for UAE students who wish to undergo a study abroad program. The SD works in collaboration with Cultural Attaché Offices (CAO) or Cultural Division Offices within UAE embassies abroad to place and assimilate UAE students into higher learning institutions throughout neighboring Arab countries, Australia, the EU, Canada, New Zealand, the USA, and the UK.
The predominant religious belief system in the UAE is Islam, with all seven of the Emirates in the federation declaring Islam as their official religion. 76% of the total population of the UAE identifies as Muslim. Among these figures, all Emirati citizens are Muslim, with approximately 85% identifying as Sunni and 15% as Shia Muslim, 9% of residents identifying as Christian, and 15% identifying as “other.” However, unofficial data suggests at least 15% of the resident population is Hindu and 5% is Buddhist. Additionally, census figures do not include the “temporary” visitors and workers residing in the UAE so actual figures may differ.
Immigration authorities routinely ask foreigners applying for residence permits to declare their religious affiliation on their applications. Although the Ministry of Interior reports that the information is only being collected for demographic statistical analysis, The US Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2011 states that there have been accounts of minority groups fearing that their religious affiliation will have negative implications on their legal status and have therefore falsely declared themselves as Sunni or Christian. Previously, groups who have declared their true religion on government applications have had their residence permits and visa applications rejected, forcing them to leave the country.
Still, the UAE government states that as long as the minority religion does not interfere with the public policies or religious principles of the country, it is an advocate of the freedom to worship for all citizens and non-citizens living within its borders. In addition to the numerous amount of mosques, a diverse range of places of worship can also be found including over thirty-one churches throughout the country, one Hindu temple, one Sikh Gurudwara, and one Buddhist temple.
Privately owned schools are allowed to educate their students on their respective religion as long as the private school does not enroll any Muslim students. It is also important to note that, while Muslims may proselytise non-Muslims, it is illegal for those of other faiths to preach or distribute non-Islamic religious material to Muslim residents. Additionally, apostasy of the Islamic faith is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, and even death in the UAE.
The country’s two main internet service provides, Etisalat and Du, have occasionally blocked web sites containing religious information, particularly related to the Baha’i faith, Judaism, atheism, testimonies of former Muslims who converted to Christianity, and, most commonly, sites with negative critiques of Islam. A new anti-discrimination law has passed in the UAE as an attempt to control the spread of radicalized Islam as well as provide penalties for using the internet to preach against Islam; some argue that the law, in turn, may stifle free speech in the country.
Ramadan in the UAE
The holy month of Ramadan is a time of mental, physical, and spiritual purification which falls on the ninth month of the lunar calendar. During this period, observers of the religion focus on prayer and spirituality while practicing discipline, self-restraint, and self-reflection.
The commencement of Ramadan is marked by the new crescent moon, or Hilal. While Ramadan always falls on the same dates in the lunar calendar, the dates vary in the standard Gregorian solar calendar as the lunar calendar is short by eleven days. In an attempt to unify the dates of Ramadan, more and more Muslim countries have began turning to a combination of astronomical calculations, fixed calendars, and observatories. Many countries still use the traditional method of nominating a special moon-sighting committee to officially signal the beginning of Ramadan once they have physically seen the new moon.
Ramadan derives its significance from the common belief that it is the month when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, is considered one of the holiest nights as it commemorates those revelations. It is celebrated in the last ten days of Ramadan, traditionally on the 27th day of the month. Throughout the month, the Qur’an is recited in abundance, with some attempting to recite the entire Qur’an during this period through special prayers called Tarawih.
The most important aspect of Ramadan is fasting, or Sawm; Sawm is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is obligatory from dusk until dawn. Muslims must not only abstain from food and drink, but also from such behaviors and thoughts that are deemed immoral or impure. The act of fasting is thought to enable one’s control over their desires, thus cleansing the soul, attaining piety, and bringing forth compassion and empathy for those less fortunate.
During Ramadan, non-Muslims in the UAE should be cautious of public demonstrations of any prohibited behavior conflicting with the observation of Ramadan. Compliance to fasting is to be observed by all in public areas; the penalties of eating or drinking in public, even if it is only chewing gum, can be a one month prison sentence. All restaurants are generally closed during Ramadan and there is a total ban on alcohol during the day, even in hotel bars. Dubai is the only exception as some bars do stay open but will usually have their music off.
In addition to fasting, charity is another vital aspect of Ramadan. More Muslims perform Zakat, mandatory alms-giving, as well as Sadaqah, voluntary contributions, in this month than any other as it is believed that their charitable efforts yield greater rewards during this time. In the UAE, tents distributing free food to those less fortunate are set up in main areas and around mosques so all residents are able to participate in the Ramadan festivities.
Muslims who fail to accomplish the fast due to reasons of ill health may either postpone the fast and make up for the days missed at a later date or substitute a day of fasting for choosing to feed an under-privileged person instead. The only people exempted from the fast are those of progressed mental or physical illness, the elderly, and pregnant women. Children under the age of responsibility, twelve for females and fifteen for males, are also exempt from mandatory fasting. Many choose to do a partial day of fasting and gradually increase the hours they fast to prepare themselves for when they reach maturity.
During the month of Ramadan the working days are shorter both to compensate for additional prayers as well as allowing practicing Muslims more time to prepare for end of the day celebrations. Throughout the UAE, the work day is usually reduced by two hours regardless of one’s religion.
Once the crescent moon has been seen, the moon-sighting committee will signal the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid Al Fitr or the “festival of breaking the fast.” Eid Al Fitr begins the Islamic month of Shawwal and is a two day public holiday throughout the UAE. During this time, many Muslims attend communal prayers, prepare and enjoy festival meals, give gifts to children, and spend time with relatives. If a Muslim has not given Zakat during Ramadan, it should be performed during these days.
Emirati cuisine is reflective of the Arabian culture and respective of the Muslim religion. Staple foods include meat and rice, with the prohibited pork being replaced by beef, chicken, camel, goat, and lamb. As the Emirates reside predominately along the coast, fish and seafood are also incorporated into many of the main dishes. Favorite dips and sides consist of falafel, tabbouleh, and hummus. Aromatic teas and coffees are generally mixed with spices and served in the presence of guests. Exotic and sometimes extremely lavish dishes are served during festivals, weddings, and Ramadan. Dates and date syrup are preferential in desserts and typically served before meals or as complementary side platters to be served with beverages.
Machbous or Al Machboos, a traditional favorite of the UAE, is made with rice, meat, onion, and dried lime (loomy). In some variants, the meat may be replaced with chicken or fish. Other items are often added; in particular, yellow raisins, lentils, and spices such as cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon are included to enhance the flavor. Shawarma, a dish which is similar to the Turkish kebab, is one of the most famous and widely eaten modern dishes in the region. The dish consists of lamb or chicken, a variety of vegetables, fries, and garlic sauce wrapped in an Arabic Roti. Chick peas, known locally as Nikhee or Dungaw, are a consistent side dish which are traditionally boiled with spices.
Specialty dishes include Al Harees, commonly served during festivals, weddings, and Ramadan, which is a well-known dish that is comprised of simply meat and wheat. The taste of the minimal ingredients is enhanced by the extraordinarily long cooking time, boiling together for hours into a smooth paste and then cooked on coals in a clay pot, overnight, with spices added to enhance the flavor.
One of the most debated meals of the UAE is the whole stuffed camel, claiming to be a Bedouin wedding dish which is comprised of an entire roasted camel stuffed with one lamb, up to twenty chickens, boiled eggs, fish, and rice. Despite being published in a number of cookbooks, many speculate that the recipe is actually an exaggeration of a less extravagant dish.
Originating from the Arabian Peninsula, Gahwa Arabia, or Arabic Coffee, is a common beverage generally served plain or infused with cardamom; other spices are occasionally added like saffron for coloring and cloves or cinnamon for flavor. The large number of expatriates from India and Pakistan brought with them Karak chai which is currently gaining popularity as one of the most popular teas in the region. The brew is generally a strong black tea that is simmered with milk, sugar, and cardamom. Other popular drinks include Tamar Hindi which consists of crushed tamarind, water, sugar, and lemon juice, Laban, which is a buttermilk drink, and Ayran, consisting of yoghurt, ice water, and salt.
Not only are dates a staple in the local diet, they also contribute to 60% of the fruit and vegetable trade in the region with over forty different varieties locally grown and harvested. Date syrups are served alongside dessert dishes such as the cardamon and saffron pancake called Chebab and Lgeimat, which is a deep-fried batter mixture of butter, milk, sugar, flour, cardamom, and saffron.
Intro to the UAE Labor Law
The federal court system of the UAE is comprised of three branches: civil, criminal, and Shariah. Cases are heard first through the Court of First Instance which is located within each emirate. Should the ruling be disagreed upon by either party, the parties then have the ability to have the case heard again in the Court of Appeals. The highest court, the Abu Dhabi Supreme Court, or the Court of Cassation in Dubai and Ras al-Khaimah, is the last degree of litigation; all rulings from these courts are final without the option to appeal.
Labor matters in the UAE are regulated by Federal Law No. 8 of 1980, or the “Law,” amended by Federal Laws No. 24 of 1981, No.15 of 1985 and No.12 of 1986. Federal Law No. 8 of 1980, ratified 20 April 1980, defines the minimum standards of rights and benefits for employees to which employers must adhere, as well as the obligations of employees working within the UAE.
Should either party fail to uphold their obligations defined by the Law they have the ability to have their case heard before a court of law. Before the courts will accept a case filing, however, workers must first try to resolve the dispute directly with their employer. If these attempts are unsuccessful the party must then go to the Ministry of Labour who will issue a recommendation as to the resolution of the matter. If the resolution fails to settle the dispute, the conflict will then be referred to the Labor Court within the Court of First Instance.
The UAE Labor Law also applies to workers in the UAE’s Free Zones; however, workers in the Dubai International Finance Center (DIFC) are exempt from the application of the Law. In the case of a dispute relating to a Free Zone entity, employees should submit their disputes to the relevant Free Zone Authority who will then refer the issue to the Ministry of Labour. The same procedure will then follow, regarding the issuance of a recommendation, as well as a court referral should the resolution not be met.
An Overview of Federal Law No. 8 of 1980
Definitions and General Provisions
Article 3 of the Law states that all employees, whether UAE national or expatriates, are protected under its provisions. Exemptions from the Law are stated as follows:
- Employees and workers of the Federal Government and the governmental departments in the Emirates, members of the State, the employees and workers in public entities and institutions, whether Federal or local, and employees and workers appointed for governmental, Federal, and local projects.
- Members of armed forces, police, and security.
- Domestic servants in private households and similar occupations.
- Workers in farms or pastures with the exception of persons working in agricultural institutions processing the products thereof or the persons permanently operating or repairing mechanical machines required for agriculture.
Employment of Workers and Youth and Women Labor
Employment of Workers
In the event that an employer cannot find suitable national workers, employment preference shall be given to workers from a country that is an Arab State before workers holding other nationalities. A National Employment Section will be established by the Ministry of Labour for all non-employed nationals which allows the Ministry to examine the records of registered non-employed nationals to ensure there are no eligible nationals before granting a non-national the position of employment and a work permit.
Youth of both genders must be at least fifteen years of age in order to work within the UAE. Age verification as well as written consent from the guardian or trustee of the youth must be received before the youth may begin employment. The total weekly as well as daily hours, working times, and job descriptions for youth employment are restricted.
Women are prohibited from working at night unless under special circumstances. Female workers are protected by the Law to receive wages equal to any male employees performing the same work.
Working females are entitled to 45 days of full pay for maternity leave provided that she has served continuously for at least one year. Maternity leave is paid with half pay if one year of service has yet to be completed. At the end of the maternity leave, the woman has the ability to extend her leave at an unpaid rate for a maximum period of 10 days.
For the first 18 months following delivery, female employees who nurse their child are granted two paid rest intervals per day, not exceeding 30 minutes, in order to complete this task.
Working fathers are not provided paternity leave under the Law.
Employment Contracts, Records, and Wages
Employment contracts for UAE nationals are not required to be in writing; however, a labor permit for an expatriate employee will not be issued by the Ministry unless the employer has filed a formal, written labor contract.
Contracts for both nationals and foreign workers come in the form of limited employment contracts, or fixed term contracts, which detail a specified duration of time (typically two years) and are inclusive of commencement and completion dates, and unlimited contracts where a commencement date is given and the employee may work until the contract is terminated by either party with prior notice given.
By law, all contracts must specify the following:
- Wages/remuneration payable.
- Date of the employment contract.
- Date of commencement of the employment contract.
- Nature of the contract (limited or unlimited).
- Nature of the work.
- Duration of the contract (for fixed term contracts).
- The location of employment.
The Ministry of Labour office provides standard employment contracts, both in Arabic and English, where the employer and employee only need to fill in the relevant information. However, employers and employees have the ability to draft and lodge their own employment contracts as long as the contract is in the Arabic language and the provisions of the contract do not contradict the Law.
A probation period for employment can last up to six months. It is not possible to engage an employee on more than one probation period for the same employer. During the probation period, the employee may be dismissed for any reason without receiving notice or gratuity from the employer. Conversely, the employee may also resign from his employment during the probation period without any consequences. Once the probation period has ended, the time lapsed is included toward the overall period of service.
Accurate records shall be kept relating to each employee, including their personal details, pay rate, any injuries or penalties to the employee, leave logs, and any other relevant information. Larger companies may be required to keep additional records.
Under the UAE Labor Law, there are no standardized salary or minimum wage requirements.
A “basic wage” is the wage specified in the labor contract that the employer has agreed to pay to the employee exclusive of allowances such as accommodation, housing, transport, and travel. Basic wage is crucial in determining the end-of-service gratuity which is based off of the last drawn basic wage and not the total wage of the employee.
Wages are to be paid at a minimum of once per month for employees engaged on yearly or monthly remuneration, with all other employees to be paid at least once every two weeks. All wages are to be paid in the national currency.
Employers are granted permission to make valid deductions to an employee’s salary under the conditions specified by Article 60 and Article 61; however, the amount an employer may deduct from a single salary has limits imposed. No more than 10% of the employee’s periodic pay may be deducted in cases of repayment of advances or amounts of money paid to the employee in excess of his entitlement. Additionally, any debts payable in execution of court judgement may not exceed one-forth of the employee’s pay; should the employee owe numerous debts or creditors, no more than half of their wages may be deducted. Finally, if the employee has caused loss, damage, or destruction to any property of the company due to violation of employer’s instructions or fault of the employee, up to five days wages per month may be deducted to rectify the error.
Working Hours and Leaves
The work week in the UAE consists of a maximum of eight hours per day and forty-eight hours per week. Employees shall not be required to work more than five consecutive hours per day without a period of time allocated for rest, meals, and prayer. Travel to and from work, as well as resting and meal breaks, are not calculated as working hours. Working hours may be increased to nine hours per day for those employed in trades, hotels, cafeterias, and as guards. The Ministry has also specified the manner in which employees may take their mandated breaks for those employees who work in factories doing around the clock work or jobs where, for technical or economical reasons, continuous attendance is required.
During Ramadan, the ordinary working hours shall be reduced by two hours.
Employees who work overtime are entitled to overtime pay equivalent to their wage pay during ordinary hours plus an additional amount of at least 25% of the wage for the overtime period; the additional overtime rate increases to a minimum of 50% of the normal wages should the overtime hours fall between 9:00 pm and 4:00 am. The rules do not apply to those who hold executive and administrative positions as they are expected to work longer hours without overtime pay. Unless there are extreme circumstances which have occurred, overtime should not exceed two hours per day.
Friday is the set day of rest for all workers. Workers who complete work on Friday are entitled to request a rest day in lieu which can be taken at a later date or to be paid their basic wage plus an additional rate that is at least 50% of the said wage. Unless the employee’s wages are calculated on a daily basis, the employee cannot be asked to work two consecutive Fridays.
Employees are entitled to full wages on the following official holidays:
- Hijri New Year’s Day, one day
- Gregorian New Year’s Day, one day
- Eid Al Fitr (end of Ramadan), two days
- Eid Al Adha and Waqf, three days
- Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday, one day
- Isra and Al Miraj, one day
- National Day, one day
Additionally, employers must give the employee one period of special leave during their employment, without pay and not exceeding 30 days, to complete the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
Employees who have completed at least six months of work but have not yet completed one full calendar year of service are granted two paid days per month of annual leave. Employees who have completed at least one full year receive 30 days of paid leave per year. Should the worker’s employment end, they will receive their annual leave based on the fraction of the year worked. Employers must approve the dates for annual leave and reserve the right to divide the leave into two parts if they desire.
If an employee becomes sick or injured and is unable to attend work, the ailment must be reported to the employer within a maximum of two days. After the probation period (three months working) has been completed the employee receives 90 days of continuous or intermittent sick days. Sick leave remuneration is as follows:
- Full pay for the first 15 days
- Half pay for the next 30 days
- No pay for the remaining 60 days
Employers may request an official medical certificate as proof of illness during the employee’s absence. Sick leave will be forfeited if it is proven that the illness was caused by direct misconduct such as drinking or narcotics or if an employee is found working at any other establishments during their leave period.
Articles 91 through 101 detail the protections in place for worker safety and healthcare.
Every employer is required to provide their employees with suitable means of protection against occupational hazards, such as injury and disease, which may be contracted during work. Employees must be informed of these dangers and instructions for minimizing such work place hazards are to be displayed in a permanent and prominent place at every work site.
Employers who employ staff in remote areas not serviced by public transportation are obligated to provide basic services for their employees at the expense of the business.
The disciplinary code provides penalties which an employer may impose upon his employees:
- Suspension from work with reduced pay for a period not exceeding ten days.
- Forfeiture of deferment of periodic increment in establishments where such increments system is applied.
- Forfeiture or deferment of promotion in establishments where promotion system is applied.
- Dismissal from service but reserving right to end of service benefits.
- Dismissal from service together with forfeiture of all or part of the benefits, provided that penalties shall not be imposed for reasons other than those specifically prescribed in Article 120 of this Law.
No disciplinary action, however, shall be taken against an employee if the offenses were committed outside of the workplace as long as the misdeed was not directly related to work or the employer. Furthermore, only one punishment shall be imposed for a single violation which cannot be accompanied with a deduction of part of the employee’s wages. All of the violations must be presented to the employee in writing then recorded with a statement of the employee’s defense, if given, and documented with the punishment imposed.
Termination of Employment Contract and End of Service Gratuity
Termination of Employment Contract
Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 grants both employers and employees the right to terminate the employment contract, should sufficient notice be given, and the circumstances fall within those defined by the Ministry of Labour. Additionally, contracts may be terminated without notice under specific cases stated in Article 120 and Article 121 such as failure by either party to fulfill their contract obligations or if harm has been done by one party to the other.
The death of the employer does not constitute the termination of a labor contract unless the contract is directly related to him personally. However, should the employee suffer total disability after their employment begins, the contract may be terminated. Partial disability does not constitute the termination of an employment contract if the employee is able to perform other work that suits their health. If the employee requests, the employer should transfer them to other work with wages equal to those paid for similar work.
Should the form of the establishment or its legal position change, Article 126 protects employees by stating that any contract valid during the time of the change shall remain valid and the service considered continuous. The previous and new employers will be jointly liable in executing the obligations relating to the contract for a period of six months; once this period has lapsed, the new employer takes sole responsibility of the contract.
Repatriation of an Employee
Expenses for repatriation of an employee to his place of origin, or other agreed place as documented in the employment contract, are the responsibility of the employer as long as the employee isn’t responsible for terminating the contract.
Bans of employment, labor, and work permits can be enforced under certain circumstances.
Applications for permits will be automatically rejected for any person facing a ban. Under certain circumstances, the ban may be lifted. Additionally, some labor industries and employment situations are exempt from the employment ban, including UAE nationals, expatriates switching to government jobs, those working for an oil company, and some skilled laborers.
End of Service Gratuity
Any employee who has completed one year or more of continuous service is entitled to the end of service remuneration at the conclusion of their employment. Only paid days of work are included when computing the period of service. The remuneration is as follows:
- Twenty one days pay for each year of the first five years of service.
- Thirty days pay for each additional year. However, the entire total remuneration shall not exceed two years pay.
End of service pay will be prorated for fractions of the year as long as the employee has completed at least one year of continuous service.
Unlimited period contracts vary, however, with employees who have completed at least one year of work but less than three years receiving one third of the end of service gratuity. Two thirds of the end of service pay will be paid for three years of service but less than five years, and full end of service gratuity will be paid for five complete years of labor.
End of service is calculated based on the last wage in which the employee was entitled for employees who are paid monthly, weekly, or daily. For employees who are paid per piece, the end of service gratuity will be based on their daily average.
Payment is calculated based on basic wage excluding any allowances given to the laborer of any kind. The employer may use the employee’s end of service remuneration to deduct any amounts that are due to the employer or company. Additionally, Article 139 states the circumstances under which an employee will forfeit their end of service remuneration.
Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases
If an employee contracts any of the occupational injuries or diseases listed under Schedule 1 or Schedule 2, it is the responsibility of the employer to provide treatment, notify the required parties, and properly document the incident.
If the ailment prevents the worker from performing their work, the employer must pay an allowance set out by Article 145. Should the employee remain permanently disabled from the injury or disease, compensation will be provided accordingly to the worker based on the percentages detailed in Schedule 2 with the calculations made by the relevant authorities when assessing a worker’s level of disability.
If the ailment ends in the death of the worker, family members shall be entitled to compensation for a period of 24 months that is equal to the last basic pay earned by the employee prior to their death, provided that the amount of compensation is at least eighteen thousand Dirhams and not more than thirty five thousand Dirhams.
Should it be proven that the employee intentionally injured himself, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or was disobeying safety ordinances at the time of the incident, the employee is not entitled to compensation of any kind.
Collective Labor Disputes
Should a dispute occur between the employer and one or more employees and fail to be settled between them, the workers should submit their complaint or claim in writing to both the employer and the Labour Department. The employer shall then reply to both the employee as well as the Labour Department within seven working days. If the employer does not reply within the set period, the Labour Department will mediate a settlement.
Labor inspections are carried out by specialized inspectors affiliated with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to ensure that the work place is compliant with all laws stated in Federal Law No. 8 of 1980. The inspector may require the establishment to make alterations to the facilities if they are found to be insufficient or dangerous.
Article 181 defines the potential penalties which are imprisonment for up to six months and a fine between three thousand Dirham and ten thousand Dirham for any person who violates the obligatory provisions of the Law.
Similar offenses within one year may incur double penalties for the violation.
The Kafala System and UAE Labor Law
The kafala system, meaning sponsorship in Arabic, is used throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including the UAE. The system enables the government to delegate responsibility and monitoring of migrant workers and foreign investors by assigning them a native sponsor, known as a kafeel, who accepts responsibility for the legal status and visa requirements of migrant laborers under their employment. The kafala system is regulated by each country’s Ministry of Interior. Free-zones are exempt from the kafala system.
The kafala system was introduced to the UAE in 1971 as a temporary guest worker program. Since the introduction, the system has posed a number of challenges for UAE policymakers as well as raised concerns among the international community about potential labor and human-rights abuses through the program.
Issues Surrounding the Kafala System
The kafala system faces criticism as it puts workers in vulnerable situations where they are dependent on their employers and this often leads to exploitation and abuse with little ability to seek outside assistance.
In the UAE, workers cannot change to a new employer without permission from the current employer or, under special circumstances, with permission from the Ministry of Labour. Since a worker does not have the ability to freely transfer between businesses, employers are able to suppress pay rates as there is essentially no wage competition.
Though the practice is illegal, passports of foreign workers are widely and systematically confiscated by employers, making it nearly impossible for workers to free themselves from their sponsor. A Human Rights Watch report from October 2014 estimated that there were 146,000 female migrant domestic workers in the UAE; of the 99 who were interviewed, most of them had their passports confiscated, many were not paid full wages, almost all were required to work overtime, and nearly half had been physically or sexually abused by their employers.
One of the largest issues is that the employer has the ability to cancel the residence visa of the employee which puts them at risk for deportation, leaving many employees reluctant to speak out if any issues arise. In May of 2013, employees of Arabtec, the largest construction company in the Persian Gulf, went on strike to demand increased wages and better working conditions. Arabtec responded by having at least 43 of the striking employees deported. The company responded in the same manner in January 2011 when they had 71 protesting migrant workers deported.
On a global scale, UAE officials have begun working in cooperation with eleven origin countries and seven Asian destination countries to create a regional framework for regulating labor migrations through the Abu Dhabi Dialogue. Established in 2008, the Dialogue focuses on preventing illegal recruitment of labor, promoting the welfare and protection of contractual workers, and influencing the practices and policies in the area of contractual labor for the region through a shared sense of responsibility and a notion of partnership between member states.
Among the GCC countries, the UAE has taken the lead by initiating reforms that will offer more protection for foreign workers. The UAE Minister of Labour, Saqr Ghobash, reports that the new labor reforms which took effect on January 1, 2016 will put the UAE on the path to completely eliminating “all the practices that were associated with the kafala” system.
The initiatives include a Ministry of Labour formatted employment contract to avoid contract substitution and set minimum employment standards, limiting the circumstances under which an employee can receive a labor ban which prohibits them from working in the UAE again for a set period of time, and allowing more freedom for workers to terminate their employment and transfer between employers.
Labor Law – Amendments and Implementing Texts
Since Federal Law Number 8 of 1980 was ratified on 20 April 1980, few actual amendments have been imposed. The amendments have been incorporated into official publications of the Law and they include:
- Federal Law No. 24 of 1981, dated 07 November 1981
- Federal Law No. 15 of 1985, dated 15 December 1985
- Federal Law No. 12 of 1986, dated 27 October 1986
- Federal Law No. 14 of 1999, dated 17 October 1999
However, the UAE has adopted multiple measures, decrees, and resolutions to increase worker protections and clarify the existing Law.
Recent Updates to the Labor Law and Kafala System
Ministerial Decree No. (766) of 2015 on Rules and Conditions for granting a permit to a worker for employment by a new employer, issued 27 September 27 2015, clarifies and expands the circumstances in which a worker cannot face a labor ban in the UAE. If any of the criteria below are fully satisfied, an employee shall be granted a new work permit and will not incur any labor bans.
Employees under both limited and unlimited contracts are exempt from any six-month employment requirements if they have reached the following Skill Levels: Level 1: University degree holders, Level 2: Diploma, Level 3: High School
Although limited-term workers are still more susceptible to labor bans than those on unlimited-term contracts, Decree 766 has drastically reduced the circumstances which would allow for a ban. Under the following circumstances, no labor ban shall be incurred:
- If the contract duration has expired and the contract is not renewed
- If both parties mutually agree to terminate the contract before the fixed term duration is complete as long as the employee has completed at least six months of labor
- If the employee is terminated without cause and has served at least six months
- If the contract is terminated after it has been renewed, provided that:
- The terminating party has given proper notice (if the contract was renewed before Decree 766 came into force and no notice period has been specified, then the default notice period is three months)
- The terminating party fulfills their requirements regarding the early termination compensation
No ban shall occur if the following circumstances apply:
- If the parties mutually terminate the contract, provided that the employee has served for no less than six months
- If the employee has served at least six months and the notice provisions as per the contract and Labor Law have been properly observed
- If the employee has worked for at least six months but has been terminated without cause
Furthermore, for either limited or unlimited contracts, no labor ban shall occur under the following circumstances:
- If the employer has violated or failed to complete any obligations of the employment contract (such as non-payment of wages for an excess of sixty days).
- If the company goes out of business or closes and the worker is unable to perform their duties (evidence must be provided through an inspection report which confirms that the business has been inactive for at least two months and during this time the employee has reported to the MOL).
- If the Labor Court has issued a final ruling that states the employee is owed wages for more than two months, the employee is entitled to compensation for either arbitrary dismissal or premature termination of the contract, or if there are any other outstanding dues, such as end-of-service benefits, from the employer.
Ministerial Decree No. (765) of 2015 on Rules and Conditions for the Termination of Employment Relations, issued 27 September 2015, clarifies the termination provisions for both unlimited and limited contracts.
Whether the employee is employed with a limited or unlimited contract, employers still reserve the right to terminate an employee without notice under the circumstances listed in Article 120 of the Labor Law.
- The maximum duration of a limited contract has decreased from four years to two years.
- A contract may be terminated if there is a mutual agreement between the employee and the employer.
- Either party may terminate a contract at any time; however, the following procedures must be obeyed or legal consequences will be enforced:
- The terminating party must give written notice to the other party in order to terminate the contract. The notice period is a minimum of one month and a maximum of three months (If the renewal happened before January 1, 2016, and the notice period was not stated in the contract, the default notice period is three months).
- The terminating party must continue to perform the obligations of their contract during the notice period.
- The terminating party must compensate the other party with three months gross wages (again, if the contract began before January 1st, 2016, and compensation was not agreed to in the contract, three months gross salary is the default compensation to be paid).
- A contract may be terminated if there is a mutual agreement between both parties.
- Either party may terminate the employment contract at any time as long as the proper notice period is given and all contractual duties are honored during the notice period.
If either party does not comply with these conditions, the terminating party will face legal consequences. In any cases of termination, however, either party retains the ability to seek compensation or recover their rights under the Labor Law and relevant texts.
An employment contract will be terminated (de facto) if:
- The employer fails in their contractual obligations (such a non-payment of wages exceeding sixty days, failure to pay benefits, etc.).
- An employee has filed a labor complaint to the Ministry of Labour on the grounds of arbitrary firing or early termination of a fixed-term contract, benefits have been denied to them by the employer, or the employer has failed to grant the employee their entitled wages, and the courts have ruled in favor of the employee.
- The business has shut down and the employer has failed to secure employment for the employee (Under such circumstances, the employee must report to the Ministry of Labour who will conduct an investigation to prove that the business has been inactive for a period exceeding two months).
Ministerial Decree No. (764) of 2015 on Ministry of Labour approved Standard Employment Contracts, issued 27 September 2015, states that all employment offer letters must match the Ministry approved employment contract format that will be signed by the worker. All offer letters must be registered with the Ministry of Labour. In order to renew a contract that was signed before the new decree came into force, the contract must be adapted to conform to the new standards. No clauses can be added, altered, or substituted unless approved by the Ministry.
The Ministry has recommended that all employees keep copies of their original contracts in the event that any disputes arise.
Federal Law No. 1 of 2015 amending some provisions of Federal Law No. 51 of 2006 on Combating Human Trafficking Crimes, signed 28 January 2015, was ratified to continue the battle against forced labor in the UAE. The law criminalizes those who use deception, fraud, coercion, or even threats such as deportation to manipulate vulnerable people into exploitative labor conditions, including forced labor and quasi-slavery situations, by labeling the act as human trafficking.
Ministerial Decree No. (788) of 2009 on Protection of Wages, issued 20 July 2009, creates a Wage Protection System (WPS) to address the issue of nonpayment of salaries. Since the system went into effect, over 2.9 million workers, along with 205,000 of the UAE’s 250,000 registered businesses, have enrolled in the WPS. Additionally, over 600 non-compliant employers have been penalized. It is estimated that the electronic system, which safeguards both the timely payment of wages as well as ensures that payments match the amount as stated in employment contracts, has aided workers to recover over 52 million AED ( PHP 677.55 () million USD) in unpaid wages. The system, however, does not apply to domestic workers.
Additional Implementing Texts
- Administrative Circular No. 2 of 2008 in regard to enforcing Arabic as an official language, issued on 18 May 2008, requires that all meetings, conferences, events, and communications from the Ministry of Labour must be in Arabic. Any correspondence originally in a foreign language must be translated into Arabic.
- Ministerial Order No. 57 of 1987 on the licensing of mediation and recruitment, and supply of non-national labor, adopted 1987, states the rules and provisions for granting and renewing licenses to non-national workers.
- Ministerial Order No. 18 of 1989 concerning the increase in work permits charges and the delay fines pertaining thereto, adopted 1989, details the changes in work permit charges as well as fines related to work permit delays.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 52 of 1989 on the rules and procedures to be adopted at the labor permits sections with respect to the recruitment of non-national labors for employment in the UAE, adopted 1989, thoroughly lists the requirements and procedures for hiring non-national laborers in the UAE.
- Ministerial Order No. 155 of 1993 concerning additional charges on work permits and delay fines, adopted 1993, amends previous Ministerial Order No. 18 of 1989 with new increases in work permit charges and delay fines.
- Ministerial Order No. 1 of 1994 on increase in labor charges, adopted 1994, discusses additional charges on work permits and delay fines.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 467 of 1995 to amend Ministerial Resolution No. 52 of 1989, issued 19 August 1995, states that expatriate laborers shall be recruited on an individual basis unless otherwise required. To submit an expedited collective application for recruiting labor, the expedition reasons shall be supplied for the Ministry who is eligible to reject the collective recruitment application.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 951 of 2003 regarding investors, dated 24 December 2003, discusses the procedures for employees to become a partner or owner of the company in which they are currently employed.
- Administrative Circular No. 77 of 2005, regarding employment of foreign workers on missions, dated 20 July 2005, clarifies special assignments and obtaining assignment work permits.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 370 of 2005, regarding the special mission entry permit dated 30 May 2005, further details the requirements and employer obligations for facilities looking to hire employees on temporary work permits.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 92 of 2006, concerning work permits, dated 25 January 2006, lists the obligations of companies which employ over 100 employees in regard to obtaining work permits.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 764 of 2006 in regards to the applications of replacement, dated 19 October 2006, relates to the replacement of an authorized recruited worker and their work permit.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 849 of 2006, on unused work permits, dated 21 December 2006, exempts all establishments from paying the fees for unused work permit.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 468 of 2007, on granting of work permits, dated 23 July 2007, sets the conditions for which a work permit will not be granted to an establishment, such as previously expired work permits, previously submitted labor cards with deficiencies, expired licenses, failure to amend the status of violating employees, and other restrictions due to violations of the law.
- Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 25 of 2010 on concerning internal work permits applicable in the Ministry of Labour, dated 11 August 2010, requires all employers to obtain work permits in order to hire both national and non-national workers. The resolution also allows non-nationals to be issued a work permit without being bound by the applicable six-month labor ban period under certain circumstances.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1186 of 2010 on rules and conditions for granting a new work permit to an employee after termination of the work relationship in order to move from one establishment to another, issued on 29 November 2010, grants employees new work permits without requiring consent of the employer to end the relationship under certain circumstances. However, should the Ministry discover that the data upon which the permit was based is incorrect, the work permit will be revoked. Workers may seek new employment without facing a six month labor ban under certain circumstances such as agreement between both parties to end the previous employment, cases for which the employee is not the cause of ending the work relationship, and if the employer has violated the labor contract or the Law.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1188 of 2010 on regulations and conditions for the issuance of domestic work permits, issued on 29 November 2010, lists the requirements and conditions for issuing a domestic work permit. Non-national citizens may be issued a domestic work permit if there are no eligible national workers available to fill the role.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 424 of 2005, regarding the elimination of the requirement of obtaining a high school diploma for simple manual labor, dated 14 June 2005, eliminates the educational requirement for employees who are performing simple manual labor. Workers who do not fall under the specific categories set out by the resolution are still required to obtain the necessary educational qualifications.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 240 of 2008 with Ministerial Resolution No. 851 of 2005 regarding the approval of the certificates, dated 21 April 2008, requires that all diplomas and educational or technical certificates presented to the Ministry of Labour must first be certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other dedicated authority to prove authenticity and validity.
- Administrative Circular No. 1 of 2001, clarifies the terms of Article 127 of Federal Law No. 8 of 1980, allows employers to add a non-competition condition into the labor contract as long as it does not violate the specified conditions.
- Ministerial Order No. 70 of 1992 on the commandment of the employer to provide a bank guarantee to cover air tickets to absconding laborers at the time of notifying such abscondment, adopted 1992, states that the employer is responsible for the repatriation of the employee at the end of their contract as long as the employee did not violate any conditions of the Law.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 444 of 2006 regarding the rules and procedures for fee exemption, dated 25 June 2006, lists the conditions under which a facility will be exempt from fees related to labor card renewal or late issuance.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 812 of 2006, regarding the rules and procedures for exemption from fines, dated 11 December 2012, adds that a facility should be exempt from renewing the labor card if the card expired while the worker was suspended, apprehended, or imprisoned. However, if the worker in question was never issued a labor card to begin with, then the fine for the facility will be calculated from the employees date of entry into the country until the date of their suspension, apprehension, or imprisonment. The facility will still be required to pay any fines if they did not request settlement by issuing, renewing, or cancelling the card within three months of the card release date.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 604 of 2007 on adding a case to the rules and procedures of fees exemption, dated 25 September 2007, states that all facilities will be exempted from the fees for issuing a labor card or an expired labor card without renewal if the worker leaves the country during the settlement period (extended from 2/6/2007 to 3/11/2007).
- Ministerial Resolution No. 968 of 2009 on the amendment of Ministerial Resolution No. 444 for 2006 regarding the rules and procedures for fees exemption, issued 6 September 2009, further states that the fees for not renewing a labor card or issuing a labor card will be exempt if the worker is deceased or suffers from an infectious disease.
- Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 26 for 2010 on regulating labor relations and determined banking guarantees, ratified on 11 August 2010, lists the fees imposed for various services including registering a firm, work permit service fees (from both inside the country and abroad), business duty service fees, employment contracts and card service fees, fees to transfer workers from one firm to another, labor recruitment agency fees, and administrative fees. Under special circumstances, the Ministry may waive the fees. Redefines the classes which a firm falls under as well as the fees and banking guarantee amounts they are subject to based on this classification.
- Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 27 for 2010 on the fees and penalties for services provided by the Ministry of Labour, issued 11 August 2010, details the bank guarantee that firms must pay per employee based on the firm’s category classification which is detailed by the resolution.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 500 of 2005, on labor card cancellation and expiry, dated 13 July 2005, states the specific conditions for which an employer may cancel the labor card of an employee who has left the country for at least six months.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 707 of 2006 regarding the rules and procedures of conducting business in the state for non-citizens, dated 6 September 2006, states that work permits must be obtained in advance for both citizens and non-citizens to begin work for a company that is subject to Federal Law No. 8 of 1980. The resolution also states when the Ministry can and cannot issue new work permits to non-national workers after their sponsorship has expired.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 721 of 2006 on escape reports procedures, dated 11 September 2006, requires an escape report to be filed for any worker who has stopped working for more than seven consecutive days should the employer not know the whereabouts of the employee or if the employee does not have a valid reason for their absence. Necessary components to the escape report are listed in the resolution as well as cases where the firm does not need to file an escape report. Legal action applies to both employees and employers who violate the necessary procedures of the escape report filing.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 724 of 2006 on the administrative cancellation of sponsorship, dated 10 September 2006, clarifies the requirements and situations in which an employee or a sponsor may cancel the sponsorship of the worker without requiring approval from the other party.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 636 of 2008 regarding the amendment of Ministerial Resolution No. 707 of 2006, dated 15 September 2008, allows the directors of Departments of Work Permits and the directors of the labor offices in the state the authorization to grant new work permits for a worker under the listed circumstances.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 42/1 of 1980 on determining the method of spending the sum of the fines deducted from workers, adopted 1980, requires all fines that employers impose on their employees to be documented. Should the company employ more than fifteen workers, a special committee must be formed that determines how the fine money will be spent with consideration of social aspects for the facility. All fine money should be dispersed on a monthly basis.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 51/1 of 1980 on defining the means of spending financial differences benefitting the employer as a result of deprivation of promotion and deprivation or postponement of bonus, adopted 1980, requires that any financial differences, such as fines, deprivation of promotion, or postponement of bonus, in the sum of an employee’s salary which benefit the employer need to be recorded monthly in a register book. These financial differences should be allocated to facility workers who are going through circumstances that necessitate giving them assistance.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 28/1 of 1981 on issuing the model regulation for sanctions to guide employer in setting the sanctions regulations for their facilities, adopted 1981, requires employers to submit any sanctions regulations to the competent labor directorate at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs for approval prior to implementing the penalty. After ratification, the employer must hang the approved sanctions regulations in a visible location in the workplace. A Ministry approved model regulation for sanctions is included in the resolution.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 851 of 2001 on ceasing to deal with violating facilities, adopted 2001, lists the punishments for facilities which have violated any laws and resolutions in force as well as the process for lifting any suspensions imposed on facilities who are in previous violation.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 589 of 2007, dated 17 September 2007, amends Ministerial Resolution No. 851 of 2001 on ceasing to deal with violating facilities by adding that violating facilities and violators will face legal action; if a facility repeats the same violation three times, their facility card may be cancelled.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 255 of 2010 for sub-contracting construction contracts, dated 30 March 2010, bans sub-contracting if prevented by the contract or if the agreement depends on the personal sufficiency of the primary contractor. In cases of sub-contracting, no person may be employed unless the employment is in accordance with the rules and regulations in force and approved by the Ministry. Both the contract and sub-contract must be in Arabic. The primary contractor and subcontractor take full liability of their workers who are carrying out the jobs at the site; the workers do not fall under the supervision or authority of the project owner.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 256 of 2010 regarding statutes and regulations for penalties, dated 30 March 2010, requires establishments that employ fifteen or more workers to post the statutes and sanctions, after being ratified by the Ministry, in a visible location in the workplace. Statutes must include safety measures and precautions, daily work hours, weekends, and holidays.
- Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 10 of 2012 to amend some provisions of cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 27 of 2010 regarding fees and fines on services provided by the Ministry of Labour, issued 1 May 2012, provides a table which updates the previous list of “Administrative Fines” applied by Ministerial Resolution No. 27 of 2010.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1283 of 2010 on licensing and regulation of private recruitment agencies, issued 23 December 2010, requires a permit for any person who desires to work as a recruitment agent. Additionally, all people interested in agency work must fulfill the minimum Ministry requirements which include being an Emirati national, having never been involved in any of the crimes listed (such as human trafficking or previous violation of the Law or its related resolutions), and pay all necessary fees and bank guarantees, among others. The resolution details the restrictions for employment through the agency as well as the agency’s obligations.
- Ministerial Circular No. 2 of 2006, dated 25 January 2006, simplifies the business procedures and provides assistance to business owners in the UAE.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 757 of 2006 on the facility card system, dated 11 October 2006, states that the owner, partner, shareholder, or services agent of the facility must be a national. Their information and signature must be listed first, followed by any authorized signatories. The national and authorized signatories are personally liable for the facility commitment to the Ministry.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 810 of 2006, dated 11 December 2006, requires an electronic signing card from an authorized signatory in order to open a new facilities card or apply for a collective work permit.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 633 of 2008 on the amendment of Ministerial Resolution No. 757 of 2006, dated 15 September 2008, allows non-nationals to be owners or partners in another facility as long as the facility is licensed by the Ministry.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 702 of 2008 on electronic facilities, issued 28 October 2008, nullifies Ministerial Resolution No. 254 for 2007 by setting new rules and regulations for electronic facilities which allows a facility to process electronic work permits as well as electronically settle any fees from the Ministry.
- Ministerial Decision No. 50/1 of 1980 on the establishment of divisions for the recruitment of nationals and determining the rules and procedures to be complied with, adopted 1980, gives employment priority to nationals who are unemployed or seeking better jobs. Both employment applicants and vacant posts should be registered.
- Ministerial Decision No. 71/2 of 1982 on training of nationals in the existing establishment in the State, adopted 1982, creates a Training Committee which is responsible for determining general policies for training as well as concluding agreements of training with the establishments. The establishment should conclude the training contract with a trainee who is eighteen year old; however, a trainee under that age may be represented by their legal guardian.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 41 of 2005 on occupational quota in the trade sector, 30 January 2005, requires companies in the trade sector who employ fifty or more employees to employ nationals at the rate of 2% annually.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 42 of 2005 on occupational quota in the insurance sector, 30 January 2005, states that companies in the insurance sector are required to employ nationals at the rate of 5% annually.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 43 of 2005 on occupational quota in the banking sector, 30 January 2005, mandates that companies in the banking sector employ nationals at the rate of 4% annually.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1216 of 2005 on the rules and procedures of the employment contracts of nationals, dated 26 December 2005 ,states the specific conditions and rules for employing UAE nationals. Labor cards for national workers are exempt from fees. Also, the employer must alert the Ministry to cancel the labor card if the employment ends; otherwise, the employment will be considered ongoing and the employee will continue receiving pension rights.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 275 of 2006, dated 25 February 2006, protects job applicants who are nationals with disabilities from discrimination so long as their disability does not prevent them from completing the necessary work. All facilities shall adhere to the global specifications of people with disabilities to reach the work place and during working hours. Any facility that employs a national with a disability will view the employee as two people with respect to nationalization quotas.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 442 of 2006 on the Directors of Human Resources and the Directors and Officials of employees Affairs in the Private Sector, dated 24 June 2006, grants private sector facilities 18 months from the date of publication to work with Development and Employment Authority of the National Labour Force (Tanmia) to substitute national workers in the places of director of human resources and employee affairs officials. Tanmia will provide the necessary training to nationals to carry out the duties of the jobs required.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 443 of 2006 on secretarial jobs in the private sector, dated 24 June 2006, puts a halt to hiring any non-national applicants for secretarial jobs. Non-nationals currently employed in a secretarial position may work until the end of their labor contract. After the contract has reached a conclusion, the facility should contact Tanmia to find a suitable national employee for the role.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 635 of 2008 regarding the public relations officials, issued 15 September 2008, requires any establishments which employ over 100 people to hire a national or a citizen of a Gulf Cooperation Council country to fill the role of a public relations officer; the hired public relations officer may work for several establishments provided that they all belong to the same employer.
- Ministerial Order No. 293 of 2015, regulating the conditions of employment of UAE national workers, signed 30 April 2015, states that before a UAE national employee can begin work, the employer must submit the signed employment contract and work permit application to the Ministry of Labour.
- Ministerial Order No. 48/1 of 1980 on the formation of a Conciliation Board for the settlement of collective disputes, adopted 1980, requires that a Conciliation Committee be formed in each Labour Branch. The Conciliation Committee board is composed of the Director of the Labour Branch from the area in which the workplace is located as well as the employer or his representative and a worker’s representative who is selected with consultation from the Chairman of the Committee.
- Council of Ministers Order No. 11 of 1982 to regulate proceeding and other rules necessary for the good progress of work before Conciliation Boards and Supreme Arbitration Board for the settlement of collective disputes, adopted 1982, further details the Conciliation Board and the Supreme Arbitration Board as well as the general provisions regarding the settlement of collective disputes.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 307 of 2003 on collective labor disputes, dated 31 May 2003, defines the process and procedures for filing a collective labor dispute.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 4/1 of 1981 on defining works that are hazardous or in which it is permissible to reduce the legally decided working hours, dated 6 January 1981, limits the amount of work hours per day to seven for those employed under certain professions listed in the resolution that are physically demanding or hazardous to health.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 27/1 of 1981 on determining remote areas as mentioned in the law regulation work relationships No. 8 of 1980, dated 19 April 1981, requires employers who employ workers in the remote areas mentioned in the resolution to provide, at the employers expense, basic conditions required for living such as adequate housing, potable water, access to transportation and medical aid, and facilities for entertainment. Access to food products must also be available; however, it is not the employers financial obligation to provide these items to the employees.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 37/2 of 1982 regarding the level of medical attention the employer is obliged to provide his workers, dated 17 July 1982, states that the level of medical attention the employer is required to provide to his workers is based on the amount of employees the establishment has working for them. The employer must confirm the fitness level of the employee before they are hired.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 32 of 1982 on determining prevention means and measures to protect workers from work hazards, adopted 1982, dictates that employers must take all the necessary precautions to protect their workers from occupational illnesses and injuries that could happen during working hours. Detailed and clear instructions must be posted on fire prevention measures, workplace hazards and procedures to prevent illness or injury, and how to handle an accident. Instructions should be in Arabic as well as any language understood by the employees.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 46/1 of 1980 on defining the works in which women can be employed at the time between 10 PM and 7 AM, adopted 1980, allows women to be employed between the hours of 10 PM and 7 AM who work in certain professions defined by the resolution including the food and beverage industry, transportation (including tourism, aviation, and airports), and those who work in the medical field. Other special circumstances, such as working for a limited time during Ramadan or before the Al-Adha feast, working in order to prevent or recover from a serious work accident, or working during annual inventory or liquidation periods, are also acceptable.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 47/1 of 1980 on exempting some institutions from some of the provisions stipulated in the law organizing the relations pertaining to employing minors and women, adopted 1980, relates directly to educational and charity institutions whose objectives include occupational rehabilitation or training of minors and women. The resolution exempts these bodies from the provisions of articles 22, 22, 23, 27, and 35 of Federal Law No. 8 of 1980.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 5/1 of 1981 on defining works that are hazardous, arduous, or harmful to the health and where minors are prohibited to work, dated 6 January 1981, prohibits minors from performing work in the industries listed by the resolution which are deemed as a risk to the health of the minor.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 6/1 of 1981 on defining work that is hazardous, tiresome, or harmful to health or morals, and where women should not be employed therein, dated 6 January 1981, restricts women from engaging in the types of work listed in the resolution as it is considered hazardous or harmful to either the physical health or morals of women.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1189 of 2010 on regulations and conditions for issuing work permits to minors, issued on 29 November, 2010, states that work permits will only be issued to minors so long as they meet all the conditions stated in the resolution. Additionally, the work that minors may perform and the employment fields under which they may work are limited.
- Ministerial Resolution No 49/1 of 1980 on determining the jobs where work must continue without halting and how to give the workers breaks for rest, food, and prayer, adopted 1980, lists the professions in which workers may continue work without a break period; however, the facility should allow workers to have a snack, pray, or rest in a way that is organized by the facility during work.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 235 of 1984 to amend some of the provisions related to Ministerial Resolution No. 7/1 of 1981 on the exempted categories from the provision related to working hours, adopted 1984, adds the chairmen of the board of directors, general managers, heads of departments, and supervisors of facilities to the exempted categories from the provision related to working hours.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 1215 of 2005 on registering the nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council countries working in the private sector, dated 26 December 2005, details the process, rules, and procedures for employing workers from a Gulf Cooperation Council country.
- Ministerial Circular No. 3 of 2007, dated 20 May 2007, allows special permissions for facility owners who are from Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
- Ministerial Resolution No. 4 of 2007 on permitting Gulf Cooperation Council countries nationals on practicing economic activities and professions in the country, issued 14 January 2007, restricts nationals from Gulf Cooperation Council countries for engaging in work related to Hajj and Omra services, recruitment of workers, commercial activities, social work related activities such as care for the disabled and elderly, and cultural activities such as establishing a newspaper or working for a printing press.
- Ministerial Order No. 292 of 2015 regulating the conditions of employment of Gulf Cooperation Council national employees, signed 30 April 2015, streamlines the employment process of Gulf Cooperation Council nationals by allowing them to begin work immediately after the Ministry of Labour has approved the work permit application and the signed employment contract.
Specific Categories of Workers
- Federal Law No. 7 of 2012 concerning regulating expertise professions before the judicial authorities, issued 10 October 2012, states the minimum requirements to work as an expert before the judicial authorities. The Ministry shall keep a list to register the experts in the licensed specializations and each expert shall have a file containing all matters pertaining to the exercise of the profession. The registration is for a term of three years which is renewable by submitting an application at least thirty days before the end of registration. The law also contains information regarding removal of someone from the expertise list should they violate any of the provisions of the law or other circumstances listed.
- Federal Law No . 6 of 2012 regulating the profession of translator, issued 10 October 2012, requires those in the translation profession at the State to be registered and obtain a license. Neither courts nor any authority which carries out authentication or ratification works shall accept any documents translated from a foreign language to Arabic unless the translation was performed by one of the licensed translators in accordance with Federal Law No. 6 of 2012.
- Federal Law No. 12 of 2014 concerning auditing profession law, issued 30 November 2014, sets guidelines for the licensing of auditing firms and professionals. All auditors must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or other equivalent form of qualification. Ongoing professional training must be attended to remain a qualified auditor.
- Federal Law No. 3 of 2013 concerning the establishment of Emirates Post Group, adopted 3 April 2013, establishes the “Emirates Post Group,” which replaces the Emirates Post Holding Group. The Emirates commercial postal service institution “Empost” as well as each Emirate post institution under the name “Emirates Post” will be merged as two operative units. All rules, procedures, and regulations of the Group are defined by Federal Law No. 3 of 2013.
- Federal Law No. 2 of 2014 concerning small and medium enterprises, dated 16 March 2014, regulated the relationship between all government institutions and entrepreneurs of the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector. A SME council, devoted to assisting and developing incentives for small and medium enterprise business owners, will be put into place. In addition, the law creates a SME program to support the development of SME projects and facilities, establish a database which classifies projects and facilities, and encourages joint cooperation and integration between them.
Finding Expat Jobs in the UAE
Recent ministerial decisions contain provisions that favor UAE nationals for employment; preference is given first to UAE nationals, then to nationals of an Arab country, and lastly to persons of other nationalities. Additionally, the Ministry of Labour has begun to impose quotas for employment of nationals, referred to as Emiratisation, on certain job sectors as well as companies. Despite this, there is still a wide variety of expatriate positions available in the UAE with multiple avenues for securing such employment including:
- Inquiring through government departments and sectors that handle overseas workers of their respective countries such as:
- the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India
- the Department of Foreign Employment (DFE) in Nepal
- the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment in Pakistan
- the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment in Bangladesh
- the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration
- the Ministry of Manpower and Emigration in Egypt
- the Ministry of Labour in Lebanon
- the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration in Indonesia
- Creating an online employee profile for large scale job websites such a LinkedIn, where headhunters often recruit foreign workers to fill vacant positions in the UAE.
- Using various job search engines and online resources to submit applications online; a few examples are:
- Additionally, these UAE based companies are regularly hiring:
- Looking for referrals from family member or friends who are already working in the UAE is very beneficial as many business encounters are based on trust and personal relationships.
- Using a recruitment agency. Recruitment agencies in the UAE are regulated by the federal government and can help alleviate the stress, competition, and time you will spend job hunting.
- Obtaining a UAE visit visa to look for work in person during the validity of the visa. A 30 day visa on arrival, extendable for an additional 30 days from the Ministry of Immigration, is available to citizens of the following countries: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the Vatican. Furthermore, visas are available to business travellers who intend to take part in training, meetings, and exhibitions.
Employment Basics to Know Before Accepting a Job Offer in the UAE
The employment rights and duties of the UAE can differ substantially to that of one’s country of origin. Following are some recommendations and guidelines to assist with your adjustment to a new workplace environment as well as a new culture.
Employment contracts are in bilingual format. Thoroughly read through your employment contract. If neither form is in your native language, make sure that you have had the document properly translated for you. All employment contracts should include the following information:
- Employer name, place of work, and type of work
- Nature of the contract (limited or unlimited)
- Term start and end dates of contract (for fixed term or limited contracts)
- Agreed salary rate and salary release schedule
Immigration and Visas
All companies looking to employ a foreign worker must first register with the General Directorate of Residence and Foreigners Affairs – Abu Dhabi (GDRFA) as well as the Ministry of Labour who will issue an Immigration Establishment Card. Once granted, the company has the ability to apply for an Employment Visa or Permit for the foreign national who wishes to work for the company, allowing the holder to enter the UAE on an Entry Permit Visa for two months from the date of issue. After the employee enters the country on the basis of the employment visa, a medical clearance report will need to be completed which is arranged by the sponsoring company; the company should also complete the formalities of residence stamping for the employee. After successful clearance, the employee will be issued a two year visa after which the employer will apply for a Labor Card which allows the employee to commence employment.
The employer should take on the costs of hiring the new employee.
Employees are allowed to sponsor their family provided that they earn a minimum of 3,000 AED per month; however, if the employer does not provide accommodation, the employee must earn at least 4,000 AED per month.
The following benefits are required to be provided by the employer to the employee:
- Basic salary
- Repatriation to your country of origin once your employment contract has been completed
- End of Service Gratuity
- Standard leaves:
- Annual leave for employees who have completed six months of work but less than one year receive two paid days per month of annual leave. Employees who have completed at least one full year receive thirty days of paid leave per year.
- Full paid sick leave for the first fifteen days and half pay for the next thirty days that can be redeemed after the three months employment probation period has ended. Employers have the right to ask for a medical certificate for the period of sick leave.
- Holidays: one day for Hijri New Year’s Day, one day for Gregorian New Year’s Day, two days for Eid Al Fitr (end of Ramadan), three days for Eid Al Adha and Waqf, one day for the Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday, one day for Isra and Al Miraj, and one day for National Day.
- Muslim employees are entitled to a Hajj pilgrimage leave once during their employment. The unpaid leave may last for up to thirty days.
Establishing any form of labor union or trade union is not permitted in the UAE.
Currently, only two Emirates mandate employer provided health insurance coverage, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Although the coverage is required by law in Dubai, the Dubai Health Authority has had trouble regulating the system. Abu Dhabi strictly enforces the sponsored medical insurance system, with the Abu Dhabi Health Authority fining companies 300 AED per employee to establishments that do not comply with the mandatory coverage.