New UAE labour laws explained: Flexible working hours, paid leaves; 3-year contracts

New UAE labour laws explained: Flexible working hours, paid leaves; 3-year contracts

As published in Khaleej Times
By Sherouk Zakaria

Law is part of the government’s efforts to create a competitive work environment

The UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, today issued a new decree to regulate labour relations in the private sector across different work models, including part-time and temporary work, along with safeguarding employee rights and introducing new leaves policy.

The Federal Decree Law no. 33 of 2021, regulating labour relations, will be effective in the private sector from February 2, 2022, and is the most significant amendment of its kind since the law’s establishment.

The new law also introduces 3-year contracts and conditions while employing teenagers over 15 years.

Dr. Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said in a media briefing, that the new law comes in response to the rapidly-changing workplace amid technological advancements and the outbreak of Covid-19.

He added that the law is part of the government’s efforts to create a flexible and competitive work environment as the UAE prepares to embark on its journey towards the next 50 years.

“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,” said Al Awar.

>> New work models

A key change is the introduction of new forms of work under the law includes part-time work, temporary work, and flexible work.

Al Awar said work models would also cover freelancing, condensed working weeks, shared job models, and self-employment.

“In the condensed working week, employees can choose to finish their 40 hours in three days instead of one week as per the contract signed by both parties,” said Al Awar.

The shared-job model allows two people to share the same job and split the pay based on an agreement with the employer.

This article grants employees the flexibility to work on a project, hourly, or for different employers while enabling employers to harness different talents and competencies at lower operational costs.

The Executive Regulations of the law, which the ministry is currently working on, will specify the responsibilities of each party in each category.

>>3-year contracts

The new law defines one type of contract, namely a limited (or fixed-term) contract, which may not exceed three years and is renewable for a similar or lesser period upon the agreement of both parties.

The provisions of the law shall apply to unlimited contracts enclosed in the Federal Law No. (8) of 1980. It is also resolved to convert employment contracts from unlimited to limited within one year of enforcement of the law. The cabinet may extend this period based on public interest.

>>Judicial fee exemptions

The decree exempts workers from judicial fees at all stages of litigation, enforcement and petitions filed by workers or their heirs with a value not exceeding Dh100,000.

Under the new law, employers cannot confiscate employees’ official documents. Workers also should not be forced to leave the country after the end of the work term.

The law provides that the employer shall bear the fees and expenses of recruitment and employment and shall not recover them directly or indirectly from the employee.

>>Leaves in the private sector

Employees are entitled one day paid off with the possibility of increasing weekly rest days at the discretion of the company.

They can also receive a range of leave days, including mourning leave that range between 3-5 days depending on the degree of kinship of the deceased, in addition to the five-day parental leave and other leave days set by the cabinet.

Following two years of work with an employer, workers are entitled to a 10-day study leave per year provided that they are enrolled in an accredited institution within the UAE.

New mothers of infants with special needs are entitled to a 30-day paid leave after the completion of their initial maternity leave period, renewable for another 30 days with no pay.

>>Prohibition of discrimination, bullying by employers

The new law protects employees against sexual harassment, bullying, or the use of verbal, physical, or psychological violence by their employers, superiors, and colleagues.

Employers may not use any means of force, threaten to penalise employees or coerce them to perform an action or provide a service against their will.

The law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, nationality or disability.

>>No discrimination against working women

The amendments emphasise that all provisions regulating the employment of workers shall apply without discrimination to working women, with an emphasis on granting women the same wages as men when performing the same task or other duties of equal value.

>>Employment of teenagers

Employers cannot recruit minors less than 15-years-old.

As per the new law, teenagers are not allowed to work more than six hours a day with one-hour break and should be allowed to work only after submitting a written consent of a guardian and a medical fitness report.

Teenagers are not allowed to work on shifts from 7pm to 7am or engage in risky jobs that can cause harm to their physical health, ethics and well-being.

>>Working hours and overtime wage

Under the new law, it is prohibited for employees to work over five consecutive hours without at least one-hour break. No more than two hours of overtime are allowed in one day for workers.

Should the nature of the job require more than two hours overtime, employees must receive an overtime wage equivalent to regular hour pay with a 25 per cent increase. If conditions required employees to work overtime between 10pm and 4am, they are entitled to an overtime wage equivalent to regular hour pay with a 50 per cent increase. People on a shift basis are exempted from this rule.

If workers were asked to work on a day off, they must receive a one-day leave or an overtime wage equivalent to the regular day pay with a 50 per cent increase.