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UAE labour law – new rules allow for more flexible work

The UAE is introducing a new labour relations law in the private sector. President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued the federal decree – Law No.33 of 2021 – on the regulation of labour relations. The new laws will take effect from February 2, 2022

How will the new law affect UAE workers?

According to the Emirates News Agency, the new UAE labour law seeks to enhance the elasticity and sustainability of the labour market nationwide. It places worker welfare and wellbeing at its core.

It also strengthens the presence and competitiveness of Emiratis in the labour market and guarantees the rights of both the employer and the employee in a fair manner.

Dr Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said in a media briefing that the new decree law is the biggest update to the laws regulating labour relations. This comes as part of the UAE Government’s efforts to create a flexible and competitive business environment at a time the nation is about to embark on its journey towards the next 50 years.

“The law comes in response to the rapidly-changing workplace amid technological advancements and the outbreak of Covid-19,” Al Awar added. “It will apply to different work categories including full-time, part-time, temporary and flexi work among other categories.”

A breakdown of thenew UAE labour laws

Bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment

The new labour law stipulates that the employer may not use any means that would force the worker or threaten them with any penalty. They cannot force them to work for the employer or force them to provide a service against their will.

The law forbids sexual harassment, bullying or any form of verbal, physical or psychological violence against a worker.

It prohibits all forms of discriminations based on race, colour, sex, religion, national or social origin or disability. Anything that would scale down the possibilities of equal opportunity.

Equalising the gender pay gap

The amendments stressed an emphasis on granting women the same wage as men if they are doing work of equal value. This will be determined by a cabinet decision.

Flexi work, part-time work and more

Among the key amendments provided by the decree law is the introduction of new types of work to allow employers to meet their labour requirements and benefit at the lowest operational cost through part-time work, temporary work and flexi work. This law also allows employers to hire those whose work contracts have expired, but who are still in the country, through easy and flexible procedures.

Salary and-of-service benefits defined

The law grants companies the flexibility to pay wages in UAE dirhams or in any other currency, according to the agreement between the two parties in the work contract.

As per the law, a foreign worker who has worked full-time and who has completed one year or more of continuous service with an establishment, shall be paid end-of-service benefits. These should be calculated according to the basic wage, with a wage of 21 days for each of the first five years of service and 30 days for each subsequent year.

Non-compete clause

The new UAE labour law also permits the employer to prohibit the worker from competing with the employer or participate in any competing project in the same business, should the work entrusted to the worker permit them to know the employer’s clients or access his or her trade secrets. The period of non-competition should not exceed two years from the date of contract expiry.

Worker’s leave rights

According to the UAE labour law, all private sector workers are entitled to a paid, weekly rest day, with the possibility of increasing the weekly rest day at the discretion of the employer. Employers also have to provide vacations for the workers, including compassionate leave ranging from three to five days. Additionally, paternity leave of five days shall be granted to private sector workers. Any other leave shall be decided by cabinet.

The new UAE labour law stipulates the prohibition of withholding of official documents, such as passports, belonging to the workers. Workers also cannot force employees yo leave the country at the end of an employment contract. This has been done to allow the worker to move to another establishment in the labour market.

Probation period clarified

The decree-law permits the worker, in the event of expiration of the work contract, to move to another employer. A probationary period for the worker may not exceed six months, in accordance with the law’s executive regulations.

Exemption of workers from paying litigation fees

The decree-law waives judicial fees in all stages of litigation in all stages of litigation, execution and requests made by workers or their heirs, the value of which does not exceed AED100,000.

The employees role

The new UAE labour law regulates the workers’ obligations based on the terms of the employment contract and in accordance with duties. These include abiding by work ethics and good conduct. Keeping work secrets, developing job skills, committing not to work for another competing employer. As well as vacating the labour accommodation within one month of expiry of employment contract and other obligations.

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