The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have announced new labour rules aimed at protecting private sector employees’ rights. The new decree issued by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday will introduce sweeping changes in the UAE labour industry. It will apply to temporary and part-time workers in the private sector.
The new rules touch on equal pay, workplace discrimination, hiring teenagers, and paternity and maternity leave among others.
According to the UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, the goal is to create a flexible and competitive work environment in the country.
“We aim to create an environment that attracts talents and competencies from all over the world and enhance the future skills of workers, at the same time providing a stimulating and attractive working environment for employers,” Dr. Abdulrahman al-Awar said at a media briefing.
Employers to bear the costs of recruitment
Employers will have to bear all the costs of recruiting employees. This includes any fees and expenses spent towards the recruitment exercise. It will be against the law for employers to try to recover the costs from the employees either directly or indirectly.
Under the new law, according to Alarabiya News, employers cannot confiscate employees’ official documents. Employers will be required to give a 14-day notice if they wish to terminate the employment during the probation period, which should not exceed six months. At the end of the period, the employees will work under the terms of their employment contract.
“The employer may not use any means that would force the worker or threaten him or her with any penalty or force him or her to work for the employer or force him or her to provide a service against his or her will,” Article 74 of the new law reads.
Migrant workers will also not be forced to leave the country after the end of their work terms.
Giving employees greater flexibility
The new law grants greater flexibility to employees by introducing new forms of work- part-time work, temporary work, and flexible work. It also covers self-employment, shared jobs, freelancing, and condensed work weeks under the work models.
Workers will be able to condense their 40 hours of work into three days instead of the traditional one week.
They will also be able to share the same job with another person and split the pay under the shared job model. But this will be subject to an agreement with the employer. This will enable employees to work on a project hourly or for different employers while the employers can leverage the availability of different talents and skill sets at lower operational costs.
But employers will have the power to prohibit employees from working for competitors or in competing projects.
Additionally, employees are prohibited from working for more than five consecutive hours without taking a one-hour break.
Overtime work should not exceed two hours in a single day. Employees who do more than two-hour overtime work will be entitled an overtime pay equivalent to regular hour pay with a 25 per cent increase.
Any overtime work that falls within 10 pm and 4am will attract an overtime pay equivalent to regular hour pay with a 50 percent increase.
However, employees who work on a shift basis are exempted from this rule.
While employees will be entitled to one day paid off, employers can increase the weekly rest days at their discretion. Employees will also be entitled to paid annual, compassionate, sick, and maternity and paternity leaves.
Teenagers will not be allowed to work without a medical fitness report and written consent from their guardians or for more than six hours without a break. They will also not be allowed to work on 7 pm- 7 am shifts or engage in risky jobs.
Dealing with discrimination, abuse, and sexual harassment
The new law also prohibits sexual harassment, bullying, and any form of abuse at the workplace.
It will also be against the law for employers to discriminate employees based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, social origin, or disability.
In bid to promote gender equality, UAE will require employers to pay female employees the same wages as their male counterparts if they are doing the same work or work of equal value.
Employers will have the flexibility to pay wages in UAE dirhams or in any other currency as agreed with the employee.
The new laws, which will come into effect on February 2, 2022, will help to streamline the UAE labour market and deal with the challenges faced by migrant workers.
Ninety-three Kenyan migrant workers have died in the UAE and other gulf countries since 2019 and countless others have complained of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse by employers.