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Shifting To UAE For Work? A Primer On The Labor Laws For Expatriates

burj-khalifaUnited Arab Emirates is one of the top expat destinations in the world. In fact, the country is so popular amongst expats that 80% of its total population comprises of expatriates, or foreign workers, having 200 different nationalities. With analysts forecasting a favorable economy for the country, it won’t come as a surprise if more people start pouring here for job related purposes. If you are also planning the same, it is of utmost importance to first get familiar with the labor laws of the country.

UAE is one of the top expat destinations in the world. There are multiple reasons behind this fact. It has a highly dynamic economy, largely owing to its vast oil & petroleum reserves. Dubai, the mainstay of UAE’s global economic clout has become a global city. It is noted for its gravity-defying structures, and western-style model of business which attracts top talent from across the globe. Dubai was also awarded one of the best places to live in the Middle East by American global consulting firm Mercer.

What’s it like living and working in UAE?
UAE has a very westernized way of leading life and conducting day to day businesses and that is why despite all the cultural and climatic differences, expats still find the country amongst the top destinations for working. The government is constantly working towards improving the standards of workers accommodation in line with international standards, and those efforts led to the approval of Manual of the General Criteria for Workers Accommodation.

According to this report published in a leading daily of Middle East, the government of UAE is investing about $5.4 billion in 23 ‘worker’ cities that provide accommodation to 385,000 workers to improve the living standards so as to bring them at par with international level. The new accommodation will feature its own medical clinic, yards, walkways, green spaces and playgrounds. If this ambitious project of the UAE government is realized, it would only end up making the country an even better place for working for expats.

Important labor laws in UAE
If one is looking to pursue jobs in UAE, it’s highly recommended to be aware of all labor laws that govern the country. All labor related matters of UAE are governed by Federal law no.8 of 1980 Regulating Labor Relations as amended by Federal Laws No.24 of 1981, No. 15 of 1985 and No. 12 of 1986. According to Article 3 of the Law, the same law applies to all workers employed in UAE, regardless of their nationalities.

Getting employed: Immigration and Visa
For any expatriate to be employed in the UAE, the employer must put forth an application in the Ministry, upon whose approval only the expat can enter the lands of UAE.

Certain employers also need to submit a bank guarantee to the Ministry for end of services benefits and repatriation costs for their employees, depending on certain specific conditions.

Employment contracts for expats wouldn’t get approval from the Ministry unless a formal written contract is first filed with the Ministry.

An employment contract must state various details such as wages/remuneration, date of the employment contract, date of commencement of the employment contract, nature of the contract, nature of the work, duration of the contract and the location of employment.

The government of UAE is constantly working to ease immigration laws so as to allow smooth flow of workers from foreign countries. It also hosted an international conference on ‘Labour Mobility-Enabler for Sustainable Development” in May, 2013 to the same effect. The influential list of participants included World Bank, the International Organization for Migration, the Government of Sweden, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs UAE and the Ministry of Labor UAE.

Furthermore, it was recently reported that an agreement signed has been signed between the government of UAE and 13 European countries regarding free movement of individuals across the borders of these countries. Individuals from Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, Malta, Cyprus, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria will no longer have to apply for visas from March 22. This will serve as a huge motivation for workers to immigrate to United Arab Emirates.

There is no prescribed minimum wage by law till date. However, according to immigration regulation, an employee with a salary less than DHs4, 000 won’t be able to sponsor his spouse or children for the purpose of residing in the country.

There is no law that stipulates the currency in which the salary should be paid; neither there is any law that restricts repatriation or transfer of money. In 2012, around Dh70.46 billion was remitted by workers to their families.

The Ministry of Labor launched a Wages Protection System in early 2013 so as to safeguard the payment of the foreign workers. Henceforth, the payment will be done through selected financial institutions, which will be regulated by the government.

Working Hours & Holidays
The maximum working hours prescribed for an adult is eight hours per day or forty-eight hours per week. Besides, the law also stipulates that employees cannot work for more than five continuous hours per day without breaks for rest, meals and prayer.

Fridays are designated as the statutory day of rest each week, unlike other countries where Sunday is treated as a holiday.

For female employees there is a provision of 45 day fully paid maternity leave in case the employee has completed 12 months of services. In any case, the female hasn’t completed one year in service, she is entitled for 50% of remuneration.

The termination of an individual is subject to the conditions and the type of contract under which he/she was employed. If an employer wishes to terminate an employee under an ULC, he or she should be given a notice period of at least 30 days.

Any individual who has completed one year of service and is not being terminated for any kind of misconduct is liable to receive end of service gratuity payment.

The Article 120 of UAE Labor Law lists a number of gross misconducts under which the employer is not liable to provide any notice period to employers before terminating them. These include misrepresentation of information, any kind of fraud, and inability to deliver on the responsibilities, and engaging in any type of dishonest or criminal activity amongst others.

Redressal of Issues
If any issues arise between the employer and the expats, the Ministry of Labor is the final authority. As a matter of fact, a major query of most expats is regarding whether companies can withhold their passport in any case. According to legal experts, an employer is prohibited from retaining passport, without the consent of the employee, whether during the course of employment or for the purpose of cancellation of visa in accordance with the prevailing laws of the UAE.

About The Author –
Saurabh Tyagi is an expert writer having interest in diverse topics like education, technology, career and Web 2.0. He is a social media enthusiast and a self-confessed gadget-freak, who loves to follow the latest happenings in the tech world. He writes on behalf of . Read his more articles here.

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