The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Labour Law extends to all workers and personnel employed in the UAE, regardless of whether they are UAE citizens or expatriates. Nonetheless, few categories have been excluded from its applicability like employees of the Federal government departments, public bodies, police, members of armed forces, domestic servants, agricultural workers, etc.
The UAE Employment Law includes all facets of employer-employee relationships, like employment contracts, policy for juveniles and women, leave policy, record keeping, working hours, medical services, termination of contracts, employee welfare, disciplinary codes, end-of-service benefits, and many more.
An application has to be made to the Labour Ministry in the UAE for the jobs of any expatriate employee. This application must be authorized by the Labour ministry before the employee enters the country. These work permits are valid for a term of three years and are subject to renewal for the same period. Until a formal legal labour contract is submitted with the Ministry, the labour permit for a foreign employee cannot be granted by the Ministry of Labour.
Employment contract in UAE
In essence, an employment contract must include the date of the contract of employment, the date of commencement of the contract of employment, the designation and compensation, the duration of the contract (limited or unlimited), and the terms of the contract.
Employment contracts are classified into two types – limited and unlimited employment contracts.
Limited employment contracts are for a defined period with features such as a fixed start and end date. With mutual consent, however, it can be renewed. The contract automatically ceases at the end of the duration specified in the contract.
In unlimited contracts, there is a start date but no end date. On mutual consent, the contract is terminated by either party by giving a 30 day termination notice. However, if the contract is terminated by the employer for an irrational reason, the employee is entitled to compensation.
For an adult worker, the maximum working time is eight hours a day i.e. 48 hours a week. For specific workers like those in hotels, cafeterias, guards, trade, etc., this can be extended to nine hours a day. Travel time is not part of the hours of service.
The number of hours employees can legally be asked to work depends on their occupation, industry, and also their position in the organization. Working hours for the private sector in UAE is eight hours a day (48 hours per week), while it is seven hours a day for those working in the public sector.
The number of working hours per week is set by the UAE Labour Law, and employers who force workers to extend this threshold without paying them are in violation of labour laws. Labour Law specifies that any hour/s spent longer than usual are considered as overtime. Nonetheless, the employer can ask the worker to work beyond the normal hours and pay accordingly for the number of excess hours worked.
Sick leave, annual leave, and maternity leave
Sick leave – The worker must report any injury or sickness that prevents him/her from working, within a period of two working days, to the employer. During the probationary period, an employee will not be entitled to any sick leave.
Annual leave – As per the UAE Labour Law, an employee is eligible for annual leave (not less than two days per month) given that his/her employment is more than six months and less than one year. If the service of the employee exceeds one year, he/she is entitled to 30 days of annual leave. At the end of the employment, the employee is granted a fraction of the last year in service as annual leave.
Maternity leave – Any permanent full-time or part-time staff is entitled to 90 days of maternity leave from the date of childbirth. The employee can also apply for maternity leave 30 days before her due date, given the leave is continuous. In addition, an employee can combine normal annual leave and leave without pay with her maternity leave for a maximum of 120 days.
UAE maternity leave law also states that, based on a properly certified medical certificate, an employee who has endured a miscarriage before the 24th week of her pregnancy may take sick leave. Subject to the submission of an authorized medical report, if the employee suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth after the 24th week, she is entitled to 60-day maternity leave.
The law aims at fostering a work-life balance, promoting the rights of working women, and providing the legal basis for improving gender equilibrium. The employee would earn only her basic monthly pay during the maternity leave and childcare time. The official holidays and weekends will be counted as part of the maternity leave.
Termination of employment in the UAE
An employment contract may be terminated in certain situations such as,
- Both parties agree to terminate the contract unanimously with the employee agreeing to do so in writing.
- One of the two parties wishes to terminate the contract in compliance with the rules of law at the end of the contract period, provided that the notice is given in agreement with the provisions of the law.
At the end of the employment contract, an employee shall be entitled to any balance payable in favor of the notice period, especially in the case of an unlimited contract.
The notice period specified in the contract is compulsory for all labour contracts, as negotiated between the employer and the employee. The employee is required to serve the notice or pay a compensatory sum when he/she resigns unless he/she has a formal statement from the employer renouncing the notice period for whatever cause.
UAE Labour Law termination benefits
In the case of wrongful termination by the employer during the limited contract period, an employee is liable for compensation or compensation equal to the duration before the expiry of the contract. Compensation is calculated on the basis of the last salary drawn by the employee. The employer shall also settle any balance with respect to unused leave, the balance of overtime hours, and gratuity payment (if applicable).
If the employee resigns by his/her own choice before serving one year, he/she will not be entitled to any gratuity pay.
Repatriation of employee
When agreed between the two parties, an employer would have to pay the employee’s repatriation expenses (including air ticket allowance) to the native place or to some other place once the contract ends. However, if the employee is liable for ending the contract, the repatriation expenses will not be authorized and the employee will have to pay his own expenses.
UAE labour contract
It’s best to acquaint yourself with the terms and conditions specified in your employment contract if you are employed in the UAE. You can simply view your labour card in the UAE online through the MOHRE (Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation) website instead of taking a printout of your employment contract every time you want to check some rule/clause.
On the MOHRE website, you need to simply enter your details such as person code, labour card number, nationality, and date of birth to view your contract online.
Labour ban in UAE
When it comes to employee rights and obligations, the UAE Labour Law is very straightforward. Typically, at the request of the employer concerned, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) initiates labour or citizenship bans, which may be in either of these cases:
- If an employee violates a limited contract
- If an employee absconds
- If the notice period is not served by an employee
MOHRE manages and governs employer-employee ties in the UAE. It is possible to escalate any conflict between the two parties with the right to resolve a settlement based on the UAE Labour Law. You can raise your complaint with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation if you are employed for long hours and are not paid for overtime or if your employer has inappropriately exploited you.
You can file the complaint either by calling on the hotline number or through their app/website.
Dubai labour court
Both employers and employees can file labour law cases in Dubai labour court if there are any job-related problems they face. It is important to note that the case must be filed within a year. When a year has passed after the event of a dispute, no appeals by both the staff and the employers can be heard.
It is crucial for both parties to reach out to the court before it is too late. The respective departments will then proceed with the required steps to resolve the dispute.
If you are employed in the UAE, it is important to understand the country’s labour laws. This allows you to understand and clarify any doubts regarding annual leave, working hours, compensation, end of service benefits, and many other work-related issues.
Under the UAE law, labour rights are well secured and it is vital to be aware of your legal rights. The UAE labour courts can settle any job dispute filed either by an employee or the employer under the Labour Act.