The United Arab Emirates (UAE) issued a new labour law in the private sector across different work models, including part-time and temporary work, along with protecting employee rights and introducing new leave policies, in addition to protecting employees against mobbing, sexual harassment, bullying, or the use of verbal, physical or psychological violence by their employers, superiors and colleagues. The new law will be implemented starting from February 2nd, 2022.
The employment contract is a legal document issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE), which defines duties, responsibilities and rights of all parties such as working hours, holidays and disciplinary rules for employees.
The employment contract should be based on the offer letter signed by both parties and must be submitted to MoHRE within 14 days of the employee’s arrival in the UAE based on the employment entry permit or from the date of status change (if you are in a status which allows you to transfer your visa; i.e. not having violated any law).
Types of contracts issued by the Ministry vary depending on the duration and purpose of the contract; thus, the individual must read the contract terms before signing it. Signing the employment contract is an essential step for obtaining employment, entry and residence permits.
The new mandatory employment offer letter, received by expatriates, sent by the UAE companies will help expats understand what to expect once they join the companies in the UAE as an employee. The mandatory offer letter should promote transparency or openness between the employer and the employee. This will ensure that expats coming for employment are not in for any unpleasant surprises.
Previously it was observed that expatriates received attractive employment offers from UAE-based companies while being in their home country but after joining the companies in the UAE they observed that the terms of the offer letters are not really applicable and they were provided with less favourable terms on arrival. The employees invariably found themselves in a weak position to renegotiate once they had taken all steps to relocate to the UAE.
The employer must ensure that the employee has read the offer letter and understood it. If it is proved that a worker did not go through the annexes before signing the labour contract, the employer will be fined AED 20,000 for submitting incorrect data to MoHRE.
If the employee is in the UAE, he must sign the offer letter before the employer can seek MoHRE’s preliminary approval for his employment. Employers must disclose the terms of the offer letter to MoHRE. A copy of the offer letter is stored in the MoHRE’s database. Employees are issued work permits based on these offer letters.
The amendment to the law will benefit employees as it will ensure that the employer sticks to the original attractive offer and cannot alter the terms and conditions in the employment contract without the consent of the Ministry of Labour unless, of course, the terms are more generous towards the employee.
The UAE Ministerial Decree 764 of 2015 introduces a mandatory employment offer and states that an entry permit will not be granted for an expatriate employee until an employment offer has been lodged with the Ministry of Labour.
Under the old law, both the employee and the employer had the right to terminate the employment contract during the probationary period without notice and thus without any claims. The new Decree 33, on the other hand, obliges the terminating party to inform the other party with 14 days’ notice, and in some cases even with one month’s notice. Furthermore, the new law additionally provides several rights for both parties.
Another change the law has brought is the extension of maternity leave in the private sector to 60 days, with leave for 45 days at full pay, followed by 15 days at half pay. In addition, mothers of children with special needs are entitled to an additional 30 days of paid leave at the end of their first maternity leave, which can be extended to an additional 30 days without pay.
Notwithstanding public holidays and the normal agreed annual leaves, the employees are entitled to one day off with full pay along with the possibility of increasing weekly rest days at the discretion of the company. Furthermore, employees may also be entitled to a number of additional days of leave. For example, in the event of a bereavement, there may be an entitlement to 3-5 days of leave, depending on the degree of relationship of the deceased, or a five-day parental leave for the father. All other paid leave benefits are decided by the Council of Ministers.
In addition, after two years of employment, the employee is entitled to a 10-day study leave per year to pursue further education in the field of work, with the training to be completed at an accredited institution in the UAE.