Different laws apply to domestic workers and employees of the public and private sectors and free zones. Read about the key provisions of the law for private sector employees in the UAE.
Private sector employees
Working in the private sector
Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 also known as the Labour Law as amended governs the labour rights of employees in the private sector.
The Labour Law handles matters related to working hours, vacation and public holidays, sick leave, employing juveniles, maternity leave, employee records, safety standards, termination of employment and end of service gratuity payments. According to Article 3 of the Law, it applies to all employees working in the UAE, whether UAE nationals or expatriates. However, there are certain categories of employees who are exempt from the law and may have to follow another set of regulations.
As amended by Federal Law No. 24 of 1981 and Federal Law No. 12 of 1986, the provisions listed in the law do not apply to the following categories:
- employees and workers of the federal government and the local governmental departments
- employees and workers in public entities and institutions, whether federal or local, and employees and workers appointed for governmental, federal and local projects
- members of armed forces, police and security
- domestic servants in private households and similar occupations
- workers in farms or pastures with the exception of persons working in agricultural institutions processing the products thereof or the persons permanently operating or repairing mechanical machines required for agriculture.
Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, known before as Ministry of Labour is responsible for overseeing the employer-employee relations and maintaining labour rights for the private sector.
Laws and regulations
Read the laws and regulations that govern the private sector employment in the UAE.
Labour law – key provisions
Here are some of the key provisions of the Labour Law:
- working hours
- official leaves and vacations
- wages Protection System (WPS)
- end of service benefits
- safety at work place
Article 65 of the UAE Labour Law identifies the normal working hours for the private sector as 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week.
The working hours may be increased to 9 hours a day for businesses, hotels and cafes after approval from MoHRE.
Government entities are not governed by the Labour Law and they operate for 7 hours daily.
Working for more than 7 hours a day is prohibited in arduous or unhealthy works and industries.
Normal working hours are reduced by two hours daily during the holy month of Ramadan.
An overtime is considered if the nature of job demands working beyond normal working hours and it will entitle the employee for a pay equal to normal working hours’ remuneration plus 25 per cent of that pay. It could increase to 50 per cent if overtime is done between 9 pm and 4 am.
Official leaves and vacations
Friday is the official weekend for all workers, except for daily wage workers. If circumstances require an employee to work overtime on that day, he will be entitled for regular working hours’ pay, plus an increase of not less than 50 per cent of that amount.
Employees are entitled for paid leave on the following public holidays:
- Hijri New Year – 1 day
- Gregorian New Year – 1 day
- Eid Al Fitr – 2 days
- Waqfa day and Eid Al Adha – 3 days
- Prophet Mohammed’s birthday – 1 day
- Isra and Miraj or the Ascension Day – 1 day
- Martyr’s Day – 1 day
- National Day – 1 day
In addition, employees are entitled to an annual leave of:
- 2 days per month, if they have completed six months of service but not one year
- 30 days, if they have completed one year of service.
Employees are entitled to a sick leave of not more than 90 days per year subject to conditions stipulated in the law. They will receive full pay for the first 15 days, half pay for the next 30 days and no pay for the rest 45 days.
Employees may be granted a special leave without pay, which may not exceed 30 days for the performance of Hajj once throughout his service. This is granted only once during his years of employment.
Employees are not entitled to any paid sick leave during the probation period.
Wages Protection System (WPS)
The Wages Protection System (WPS) is an important step to ensure and protecting the rights of workers, and to establish trust between organisations and their employees. Under this system, salaries of employees will be transferred to their accounts in banks or financial institutions, which are authorised by Central Bank of the UAE to provide the service. For any concerns or complaints regarding the salary, employees can contact the MoHRE or lodge a complaint through eNetwasal.
As per Ministerial Decree No. 739 of 2016 Concerning the Protection of Wages, all establishments registered in the Ministry shall pay the wages of its employees on the due date through the WPS.
End of service benefits
Read about this in the pensions and end of service benefits’ page.
Safety and health at work place
Articles 91 to 101 of the UAE Labour Law specify the provisions for employees’ safety and health care.
Reduction in working hours
Construction and industrial workers are not permitted to work during the hottest hours of the day during the summer. Any firm found to have staff working during the designated break time would be fined AED 5,000 per worker up to a maximum of AED 50,000.
Also, employees are entitled to work 2 hours less every day during the holy month of Ramadan.
Protection against injuries
Employers should provide their employees with suitable means of protection against injuries and dangers such as a fire which may result from the use of machinery and other work equipment and against occupational diseases which may be contacted during work.
Employers shall display in a permanent and visible place at the work site, detailed instructions regarding the means of preventing fire and the means through which employees can protect themselves from hazards to which they might be exposed during work. These instructions shall be in Arabic, and if necessary another language understood by the employee.
Employers must keep a first aid kit or kits containing medicines, bandages and other first aid material readily available.
At least once every six months, employers have to assign at least one physician to examine thoroughly the employees who are exposed to the possibility of contracting one of the occupational diseases. The results of such examination should be recorded on the employees’ files.
Prohibition of alcohol on work premises
No employer may bring or allow others to bring any kind of alcoholic drinks for consumption on work premises.
Working in remote areas
Every employer who employs staff in remote areas that are not served by public means of transportation must provide his employees with the following services:
- suitable transportation
- suitable accommodation
- suitable drinking water
- suitable food
- first aid services
- means of entertainment and sports activities.
All the above services apart from food material will be on the employer’s account.
In case of an injury or death at workplace
According to Article 149 of the Labour Law, the compensation for death at work is equal to the basic wage of the worker for 24 months, provided that the amount of compensation is not less than AED 18,000 or more than AED 35,000.
The amount of compensation is calculated on the basis of the last wage received by the worker prior to his death.
Read about what to do in case of an injury or death at workplace.
Employers employing 50 or more workers must provide accommodation to their staff. Employers are obliged to abide by the Ministerial Resolution No. 591 of 2016 concerning the commitment of establishments to provide accommodation to their workers.
The resolution provides that establishments with 50 or more workers, where the wage of each worker is less than AED 2000 per month, must provide accommodation for its workers.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai applies compulsory insurance coverage for all employees: nationals and expatriate residents. Read about insurance in the health section.
Read about the provisions for recruiting UAE nationals in the private sector.
There is no minimum salary stipulated in the UAE Labour Law, however it broadly mentions that salaries must cover basic needs of the employees.
Article 63 of the Labour law mentions that the minimum wage and cost of living index is determined either in general or for a particular area or a particular profession by virtue of a decree and consent of the Cabinet.
Workers’ rights international agreements
Read about major international conventions ratified by the UAE.
Emiratisation laws and policies in the private sector
The UAE is implementing a strategic plan to promote Emiratisation in the private sector. Read about these laws:
Read some resources which pertain to private sector employment on the website of Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation:
Check templates of job offers and contract services on the website of Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
Domestic workers as per the new law
To ensure decent working and living conditions for domestic workers, the UAE Cabinet and the Federal National Council approved a new draft Domestic Labour Law that regulates four key areas in the protection of domestic workers:
- rights and privileges
- recruitment agencies.
The new law establishes the principle of informed consent, ensuring that workers are aware of the contract terms, nature of work, the workplace, the remuneration and the period of daily and weekly rest as set out by the executive regulations and before they cross their national borders.
The draft law will become in effect when it is signed by H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.
Under the new law, Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation is responsible for domestic workers’ rules and regulations. Currently, domestic workers are under Ministry of Interior.
Who are domestic workers?
The new domestic law applies to the following households jobs:
- private sailor
- watchman and security guard
- household shepherd
- family chauffeur
- household horse groomer
- household falcon care-taker and trainer
- domestic labourer
- private coach
- private teacher
- household farmer
- private nurse
- private PRO
- private agriculture engineer.
Highlights of the new law
Regulation of contracts
The recruitment agency must present a copy of the job offer to the worker prior to the worker’s departure from his country of origin. A standard contract accredited by Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) will govern the terms and conditions of the employment.
Either employer or domestic worker may terminate the contract if the other party fails to meet his obligations. The employer or worker may terminate the contract even if the other party has met his obligations. This is called a ‘no-fault’ termination and it is subject to compensation as outlined in the Domestic Labour Law.
Entitlements of the domestic workers
As per the draft Domestic Labour Law, domestic workers are entitled to:
- payment of wages, as set out in the standard contract, within ten days from the day they are due
- one day of paid rest per week
- twelve hours of rest per day, including eight hours consecutive rest
- thirty days paid vacation per year
- medical insurance provided by the employer
- thirty days medical leave per year
- a round trip ticket home every two years
- a decent accommodation
- decent meals at the employer’s expense
- clothing, if required by the employer, at the employer’s expense
- possession of their personal identification papers such as passports, IDs, etc.
Either the employer or the worker can refer a dispute to Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. The ministry will attempt to resolve the dispute amicably within a period of two weeks. If no resolution is reached, then the matter will be referred to a court. Under this law, cases filed by workers are exempted from court fees at all stages of litigation and must be heard in a speedy and prompt manner.
The draft Domestic Labour Law prohibits the following:
- the employment of anyone under the age 18
- discrimination on the basis of race, colour, gender, religion and political opinion
- sexual harassment, whether verbal or physical
- forced labour or trafficking in accordance with national law and ratified international conventions
- exposure to physical harm
- assignment of tasks that are not covered under the contract.
Regulation of recruitment agencies
Only UAE-registered natural or legal persons with good standing may recruit domestic workers into the UAE. An agency may not, on its own or through a third party, solicit or accept from any worker, whether prior to or after employment, any form of commission in exchange for employment.
In the event of early termination, the agency must repatriate the worker at its expense and either offer the employer an acceptable substitute worker or return to the employer the fee they had paid.
The agency must at all times treat the worker decently and refrain from exposing him/her to any form of violence.
New centres called Tadbeer, whose services will be regulated by the ministry, will replace domestic worker recruitment agencies by the end of 2017. These centres will guarantee proper visa, orientation and training for the workers.
For more information, read: