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20 March 2019
After a busy 12 months for the development of labour laws in the United Arab Emirates, the authorities look set to continue to focus on modernisation efforts in 2019.
The Labour Law 1980 remains the underlying legislation governing employment relationships in the private sector. However, the economy and workplace is much more sophisticated and diverse than it was when this law was originally implemented. The series of regulations and decrees that have been introduced to supplement the law are therefore extremely important to enable UAE-based companies to continue to attract, appropriately manage and retain leading talent from around the world.
The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Authority held a public consultation on the draft of its new Employment Law in February and March 2018 (for further details please see "DIFC authority proposes sweeping changes to Employment Law"). The final version of the new law is expected to be introduced in the first half of 2019 and will likely be supplemented by additional regulations.
The UAE authorities have declared 2019 as the 'Year of Tolerance', with a particular focus on establishing the United Arab Emirates as a global reference point for cultural and religious tolerance (for further details please see "Labour Law – recap of 2018 and look ahead at 'Year of Tolerance'").
Vice President and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid formed a Supreme National Committee for Tolerance to work on the initiative's seven pillars, which include 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 introduced in 2015. The Anti-hate Law penalises discrimination against anyone on the basis of various characteristics, including religion, gender and creed.
One of the focus areas of the UAE leadership is gender equality, and there have been developments over the past few years to support women in the workplace. Examples of this are the new part-time working law (described below) 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:
Part-time working resolution
One of the most significant developments of 2018 was the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation's introduction of a resolution on part-time working and an associated part-time working visa. The visa allows employees to officially undertake part-time work and to work for more than one employer at one time.
The part-time working 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
A requirement that employees provide a good conduct or police clearance certificate when applying for a new employment visa in the United Arab Emirates was introduced, and subsequently suspended, in 2018. The system was suspended with effect from 1 April 2018. The authorities have not indicated whether and if so 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.(1) 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, although previously these 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 employee insurance scheme
A new low-cost employee insurance scheme was introduced towards the end of 2018,(2) replacing the 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 a new work permit is applied for. The policies provide private sector employees and domestic workers with:
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in the European Union in 2018, reforming data protection rules and replacing previous EU directives.(3) These changes provide standardised data protection laws across the European Union and 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.
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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