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20 February 2019
The UAE authorities have been focusing on the development and modernisation of the employment law landscape over the past 12 months and look set to continue to do so in 2019. This article reflects on the key changes from 2018 and considers what changes are on the horizon in 2019.
Part-time working resolution
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation introduced a part-time working resolution and an associated part-time working visa in 2018. This was one of the most significant developments in 2018, as it allowed employees both to:
The visa is available only in the onshore, mainland area at the moment (for further details please see "Part-time working introduced – more than just a nice idea").
Good conduct certificates
2018 saw the introduction and subsequent suspension of a requirement that employees provide a good conduct certificate or police clearance certificate when applying for a new employment visa in the United Arab Emirates. The system was suspended with effect from 1 April 2018. The authorities have not indicated whether and to what extent the requirement will be reintroduced in 2019.
Equal opportunities for disabled employees
A decree introducing equal opportunities for disabled employees came into effect in August 2018. This decree aims to provide disabled employees with a legal right to be treated in the same way as other employees. UAE employers should be mindful of their recruitment policies and working conditions to ensure that these do not present a barrier to disabled people from joining or continuing their employment with the company. This has built on the existing legal framework, which contained similar provisions but applied only to UAE nationals. The authorities are expected to continue to review and enhance the legislation relating to anti-discrimination and equality over the next few years.
New insurance scheme
A new low-cost employee insurance scheme was implemented towards the end of 2018, replacing a previous scheme which required companies to pay a bank guarantee deposit of Dh3,000 (approximately $816) per employee when applying for a work permit. Insurance policies will cost Dh60 annually per employee and will be set up "electronically and instantaneously" when applications for new work permits are submitted. The policies provide private sector employees or domestic workers with up to Dh20,000 in coverage against unpaid wages and benefits, return airfare to the employee's home country and court-ordered compensation for workplace injuries.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented in the European Union in 2018 and reformed data protection rules and replaced previous EU directives. These changes provide standardised data protection laws across the European Union and will have implications for international businesses in the United Arab Emirates that have a presence in an EU member state if data is transferred or processed within the remit of the GDPR.
Year of Tolerance
Following the World Tolerance Summit held in Dubai in November 2018, 2019 has been declared the 'Year of Tolerance', with a particular focus on establishing the United Arab Emirate as a global reference point for a tolerant culture. Vice President and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid formed the Supreme National Committee for Tolerance. This committee, which comprises seven women and is made up of ministers, artists and charity founders from a diversity of backgrounds, is tasked with fulfilling the Year of Tolerance's seven pillars, which includes developing policy, legislation and executive regulations to guarantee sustained values of tolerance in the United Arab Emirates.
A new law on multiculturalism has also been proposed, which is expected to complement and build on the Anti-Hate Law, which was introduced in 2015. The Anti-Hate Law penalises anyone who discriminates against individuals on the basis of characteristics such as religion, gender and creed.
New DIFC Employment Law
The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Authority held a public consultation of its new draft DIFC Employment Law in February and March 2018 (for further details please see "DIFC authority proposes sweeping changes to Employment Law"). The new DIFC Employment Law will be implemented in 2019 and will be supplemented by other regulations. The final version of the law is expected to be introduced in the first half of 2019.
One of the focus areas of the UAE leadership is gender equality, and there have been several developments over the past few years to support women in the workplace. Examples of this are the new part-time working law (described above) and the introduction of enhanced maternity leave for public sector workers in 2017, which increased maternity leave from 45 calendar days to three months.
The authorities are expected to continue to consult on legislation to support women in the workplace in the short to medium term. In particular, the authorities are considering introducing statutory recognition for flexible working, enhanced maternity leave for the private sector and laws developing the existing equal pay legislation.
The above developments and proposals are positive advancements for the United Arab Emirates as the government continues to modernise its HR regulations. The UAE economy and workplace are much more sophisticated and diverse than when the UAE Labour Law was originally implemented in 1980. While the UAE Labour Law remains the underlying legislation governing employment relationships in the private sector, the regulations and decrees which are being introduced to supplement that law are extremely important to enable UAE-based companies to continue attracting, appropriately managing and retaining the leading talent from around the world.
For further information on this topic please contact Luke Tapp, Andrea Hewitt-Sims or Ruth Stephen at Pinsent Masons by telephone (+971 4 373 9700) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Pinsent Masons website can be accessed at www.pinsentmasons.com.
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