EMPLOYMENT GUIDELINES FOR EXPATRIATE WORKERS
IN THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
by: ATTY. NASSER B. MUNDER
Labor Attaché II
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven States namely: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaima, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah adopt a free economy. Their doors are open to foreign workers without any restrictions. Employers have the freedom to recruit expatriate workers subject only to the Labor Law and Executive Resolutions of the UAE. The latter are applicable in the entire Emirates.
Foreign Workers who obtained a work permit from any labor departments and an entry visa from Naturalization and Residence Department may enter any airport, seaport or any of the borders of the UAE.
Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 is the law regulating labor Relations in the Emirates. There are other Resolutions issued by competent authorities that will govern the employment relation of the parties. However the following categories are not covered by Federal Law, to wit:
1. Workers in the federal government.
2. Member of the Armed Forces, Police & Security.
3. Domestic Service and the like.
4. Workers in the agricultural sector, except those processes their products and permanently operate machines required for agriculture.
Work permit is needed by an expatriate worker before they can work in the Emirates. The Ministry of Labor upon application by a duly licensed and registered establishment, will issue the WORK PERMIT, subject to the following conditions, to wit:
· The worker should be 18 – 60 years old;
· Should have a professional or academic qualifications;
· Have a passport valid for at least six months; and
· Medically fit and not suffering from any illness.
Employment (Labor Contract) is any agreement for specified or unspecified period of time drawn between the employer and the employee in which the latter agrees to work in the service of the employer and under his control and supervision in return for the wage to be paid by the employer. Employment Contract shall be executed and signed by both the worker and the employer. It should be in three copies and written in Arabic and English. Each party shall have a copy and the third copy will be filed with the concerned labor office who will review and certify the same. The contract is the private law of the contracting parties. It should be fulfilled according to the literal sense of their stipulations, if their terms are clear and leave no doubts as the intention of the contracting parties unless contrary to law. As such, it shall indicate therein among others: date of start of work, type whether specified or unspecified, place of execution and site of work, duration and monthly salary and other terms and conditions. The UAE labor law and resolutions will apply in suppletory character. The employer must notify within 15 days the competent labor department of the appointment of any worker providing important details of the employment contract.
Specified or Limited employment contract is one where the space of time or length of existence or duration has been fixed in the contract. Such period shall not exceed four (4) years. It may be renewed by agreement of the parties for a similar period or even less than the original period ( Art. 38, FL 8).
A labor contract is deemed Unspecified or Unlimited employment contract if it is not written; made for an unspecified period or duration; made and written for a specified duration but the parties continue to abide by it after its expiration without a written agreement; and made for a special job for an unspecified period. ( Art. 39, FL 8).
Employer shall obtain a LABOR CARD for the recruited worker within 60 days from arrival in the UAE. The card is valid for 3 years and renewable at least 60 days before its expiration. The worker shall request the employer to renew the labor card. Worker will inform concern labor office for the inaction of the employer. Fine will be imposed upon the employer/ sponsor for failure to do so.
There is no daily/monthly minimum wage in the UAE. Monthly salary and other allowances must be agreed upon and incorporated in the employment contract. Monthly salary shall be payable during working day, at the work place and in UAE Currency (Dirhams). As reported in the print media, the MOL is seriously studying the adoption of a minimum monthly wage within the emirates. A worker may file a case with the appropriate Labor Office for at least 2 months unpaid salary.
There will be no deduction on the monthly salary of the workers unless:
· To recover any advance or excess payment.
· Amount which by law requires for social security and insurance.
· Contribution for saving fund or debt/loan.
· Contribution for social project, benefit or services given by the employer and approved by the Ministry of Labor.
· Amount ordered by Court.
· Payment for the loss, damage or destruction through the fault of the worker, of any materials belonging to the employer. Amount deducted shall not exceed 5 days salary every month. However, the employer may request the MOL for higher deduction.
Daily working hours is eight (8) hours or 48 hours per week. Working hours for workers in trade, hotels, coffee shops, security guards, restaurants and other similar establishments may be increased to nine (9) hours. Working hours during the month of Ramadan shall be reduced to six (6) hours (Art. 65, FL 8). Seven working hours a day for the following workers in: bakery (oven), petroleum refining, cement & asbestos manufacturing, ice plant, cold stores, fertilizer, metallic acids chemical plants, gas cylinder filling factories, fat melting & wax manufacturing operations, mines & quarries, paint & varnish factory, metal casting, glue & glass manufacturing, sugar refining factory, blue & chalk manufacturing & packing and chemical oil squeezing industry (Ministry Decision No 4/1 of 1981).
Worker shall be given a 1 day off within a week, preferably Friday.[Top]
If the nature of the job requires overtime (not exceeding 2 hours, Art. 69, FL 8) the worker shall be paid overtime based on the following percentage:
· 25 % of his daily wage (Art. 67, FL 8)
· 50 % of his daily wage if overtime is between 9:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. (Art FL 8).
· 50 % of his daily wage if overtime is Friday (Day Off) (Art. 70, FL 8).
Workers exercising administrative and supervisory nature and naval ship crew and marine workers are not entitled to overtime pay (Art. 72 FL 8).
Worker is entitled to full wage for the following official holidays:
· Hijra New Year’s Day 1 day
· Gregorian New Year’s Day 1 day
· Eid Al Fitr (end of Ramadan) 2 days
· Eid Al Adha and waqfa 3 days
· Prophet Mohammad’s Birthday 1 day
· Isra and Mi’raj 1 day
· National Day 1 day ( Art. 74, FL 8)
The worker is entitled to an annual leave of
· Two (2) days a month if the service is between 6 months to 1 yr; and
· 30 days annually if service exceed 1 yr. ( ART. 75, /FL 8).
Vacation leave is intended to afford a worker a chance to get much needed rest to replenish his worn-out energies and acquire a new vitality to enable him to efficiently perform his duties. The employer has the right to determine the start of the annual leave and if necessary may divide it into two parts at most. (Art. 76). Worker shall be paid his salary plus housing allowance (Art. 78). However, worker is not entitled to annual and sick leave and even may cause his termination if it is proven that such worker works for another employer during his supposed annual/sick leave (Art. 88). Worker, likewise, may be terminated from work for his failure to return to work after the expiration of the approved vacation leave (Art. 89).
Working women shall be entitled to 45 days maternity leave with full pay before and after delivery provided she serves continuously for at least one year. Otherwise, worker is entitled to half month pay if service is less than one (1) year. Such maternity leave may be extended for 100 days but without pay if illness supported by medical certificate prevented her from returning to work (Art. 30).
Worker must report to his employer or his authorized representative his illness or injury not related to work. The employer must take necessary measures to let worker medically examine (Art. 82). Worker who got sick and serves the employer for at least 3 months uninterrupted period is entitled to a 90 days sick leave with benefits as follows:
· Full wage for the first 15 days.
· Half wage for the next 30 days.
· Any succeeding period is without salary (Art 83). The worker is not entitled to sick leave for any intentional injury (Art.84). Employer shall provide his employees with suitable means of protection against any injuries, occupational diseases which may be contacted during work. Neither employer allow anyone to bring any alcoholic drinks for consumption in the work premises. In case of PARTIAL DISABILITY, employer may transfer the worker to another job without losing benefits. In case of DEATH, worker’s heir will receive from Dhs18,000.00 to Dhs. 35,000.00. HEALTH INSURANCE POLICY, Companies who brought in foreign workers and sign employment contracts with them are responsible for their health insurance coverage.
The employer shall set up within the establishment the following:
· First aid kit for work force does not exceed 50 workers.
· First aid kit and Nurse for establishment with 50 – 200 workers.
· Doctor shall be employed by the sponsor who will recommend further medical treatment of the worker at the cost of the employer (Ministerial Resolution No.37/2 of 1982).
The Employer or his duly authorized representative may impose upon his employees the following disciplinary measures, to wit:
· Fines (shall not exceed 5 days salary a month, Art. 104). See also Ministerial Decision no. 28/1 on Issuance of the exemplary penalties list by which Employers shall be guided in drawing up penalty list for their institution).
· Suspension (without pay for not more than 10 days). A worker may be temporarily suspended for a longer period if he is accused of committing physical assault, financial crime, immorality and strike.
· Deprivation of existence allowance.
· Deprivation of promotion (once, if exist).
· Termination with payment of benefits.
· Legal Termination based on Article 120 with some or without any benefits (Art. 102).
Punishment shall be imposed upon the worker on a related work infraction after being informed and given a chance to defend himself (Arts 104 & 105).
No employee shall be accused of an offense after 30 days of its discovery and no disciplinary action shall be imposed after 60 days from the end of an investigation of such violation (Art. 111).
A labor contract shall be terminated in any of the following cases:
1. By mutual agreement of the parties.
2. Expiration of the period agreed upon by the parties unless renewed by them.
3. Either party by giving a notice of termination to the other if the contract is unspecified.
4. By death or total disability of the worker (Art. 14).
5. Death of the original sponsor and his successor fail to continue management of the company*.
6. Bankruptcy, liquidation or termination of activities of the establishment as declared by judicial judgment*.
7. closed shop*.
8. local was hired to occupy the position.
(NOTE:* Worker can transfer to another sponsor after complying with the legal requirements)
Employer may dismiss an employee without notice in any of the following:
1. misrepresentation of personality or nationality.
2. submitted fake documents or certificates.
3. terminated during probationary period.
4. worker’s mistake causing big financial loss to the employer and such incident was reported within 48 hours to the Ministry of Labor (MOL).
5. violation of a written instruction for safety work.
6. worker’s failure to carry out his duties under the employment contract.
7. revealing secret information of the establishment.
8. conviction of a crime involving honor, honesty and/or public morals.
9. habitual drunkenness, intoxicated by drugs during working hours.
10. commits physical assault upon employer, manager, and co-worker.
11. absence from work without legitimate reason for 7 continuous days and 20 days within a year (Art.120).
Worker may leave his work without notice if:
1. employer has not fulfilled his obligation under the employment contract.
2. assaulted by the employer or his legal representative (Art.121).
1. termination due to reason not related to work.
2. a serious complaint was filed by worker against employer with concerned authorities or court if proven to be genuine (Art. 122).
Any worker proven to be arbitrarily dismissed is entitled, in addition to his regular benefits under the law, to three months salary (Art. 123). If an employment contract was for specific term and the employer cancelled without legal grounds (Art.120), the employer shall compensate the worker three months salary or the remaining period of the contract, whichever is shorter (Art. 115). Likewise, the worker is liable to the employer if he cancelled a fixed contract without reasons equivalent to his half a month salary for three months or the remaining period of the contract, whichever is shorter unless the contract states otherwise (Art.116).
Both the employer and the employee may terminate at any time for legitimate reason an unspecified employment contract by giving at least 30 days advance notice of termination to the other (Art. 117). The employment shall be valid during the 30 days grace period (Art. 118). If either of the party failed to give termination notice, and decided to cancel the employment, such interested party shall pay the other a compensation notice equal to 30 days salary (Art.119).
If specified contract:
a. End of service benefits (Gratuity) after completion of at least 1 year or more service calculated from the last salary received (excluding allowances) (Art134), as follows:
· 21 days wage for every service of the first five years.
· 30 days wage for the additional years but not exceeding 2 years salary.
If unspecified contract:
a. 1/3 of the monthly salary for service between 1-3 years.
b. 2/3 of the monthly salary for service between 3-5 years.
c. full gratuity for service after 5 years ( Art.137).
NOTE: in case of disagreement relative to the computation of employment benefits, the aggrieved party may bring the matter before an appropriate labor office for final settlement ( Art,131, par. 4).
1. cost of repatriation expenses of the worker (including his family and shipment of belongings) to his country of origin (Art. 131)
2. employment certificate (free of charge - Art.125 )
3. return of all certificates, documents, instruments previously submitted (Art. 125)
4. refund of the amount previously deducted from their salary for saving funds ( Art.140)
5. if provided under the contract, avail insurance or pension scheme at worker’s choice (Art. 141).
The worker upon termination of contract shall:
1. vacate the premises (accommodation) within 30 days from the termination of contract (Art.131).
2. leave the country within 30 days from the cancellation of his visa.
Penalty for overstaying is 100 Dhs for the first day and 25 Dhs for succeeding days until final departure.
3. shall not work with rival establishment (Art. 127).
A worker may not be entitled to end of the service benefits under the following cases:
1. dismissed under any one of the grounds mentioned in Art 120 (see termination by employer)
2. voluntarily leaving job without notice (for unspecified contract) and service does not exceed 5 years (for specified contract).
Expatriate worker maybe ban from employment within the emirates for a period of 1 year under following circumstances:
· Leaving job for no valid reason before the expiration of fixed period or specified contract (Art.128).
· Leaving job before the expiration of the given notice of termination for unspecified contract (Art. 129).
The above-mentioned articles shall not apply if the expatriate worker before getting another job, gets approval from the MOL upon recommendation from the original sponsor ( Art.130).
A collective work dispute is any dispute between the employer and the worker arising out in their employment relationship (Art. 154). Any dispute shall be first settled by the parties. Otherwise, if they failed the following steps should be taken:
1. The worker shall complain in writing to the employer and send /furnish a copy of the complaint to the appropriate Labor Department.
2. The employer will reply in writing within 7 working days from receipt copy furnished the concerned Labor Department.
3. If the employer did not reply within the specified time, or his reply did not lead to settlement, the Labor Department on its initiative or at the request of either party shall mediate to settle the dispute amicably.
4. The employer can file his complaint directly with the Labor Department.
5. If no settlement is reached within 10 days from taking cognizant of the case, the Labor Department shall forward the case to the “Conciliation Committee” who will notify the parties and decide the case within 2 weeks after it was submitted for decision (Arts. 156, 157 & 158).
6. The decision of the Conciliation Committee may be appealed within 30 days from receipt of the decision to the “Supreme Arbitration Committee“ (Art. 158, par 2).
As a rule, no foreign worker may be permitted to transfer from one job to another and consequently transfer his sponsorship from one employer to another except the following that the worker is:
· Doctor, Pharmacist and Nurses
· Agricultural guide
· Qualified Accountant & Auditor
· Qualified Administrative Staff
· Technician working on scientific electronic equipment and in laboratories
· Heavy duty, taxi and bus driver
· Private Petroleum Companies.
To be effective, the transfer of sponsorship shall be subject to the following conditions:
1. That the worker shall be employed by the new sponsor under the same profession;
2. That the worker shall have a valid residence visa affixed in his passport;
3. That the worker shall have spent at least 1 year with the former sponsor; and,
4. Consent of the former sponsor to the transfer. (Note: the MOL can disregard this
requirement if objection by the employer has no valid reasons).
Requirement in numbers 3 & 4 in the preceding paragraphs is not needed in the following transfer of work to viz:
1. transfer from one branch to another within the same company or from one company to another owned by the same employer.
2. transfer of ownership of the company to another.
3. sponsor fails to meet his obligations, resulting to close shop.
4. court judgment declaring bankruptcy or liquidation, or termination of the activity of the company.
5. in case of the death of the original sponsor and his successor fails to continue the management of the establishment of the company resulting to closed shop.
(Supreme Council Resolution No. 4 of 1984 & Ministerial Resolution (MR) No. 13 of 1991 & MR No. 43/1 of 1980).
The Ministry of Labor recently announced that it opened the door for temporary work permit for all profession in the private sector. The worker can get permit twice for the contract period not less than three (3) years with his sponsor. Dr. Ali Al Ka’abi, Minister, MOL, issued this decision on this matter and announced temporary permit for all jobs ending the nature of its execution or implementation with a fixed term not more than 6 months. However, this is still subject to the condition that:
1. the worker has valid residence visa;
2. complete at least 1 year with sponsor; and,
3. written approval from the sponsor;
Note: The MOL can issue even without approval of the original sponsor a temporary work permit if there is a pending case involving at least 2 months unpaid salary.
All issues or disputes arising from the employer-employee relation must be filed before a competent labor office within a reasonable time. It is a bar to recovery of what otherwise may be due the claimant. For the law serves those who are vigilant and diligent and not those who sleep when the law requires them to act.
Domestic Helper refer to any person whether female or male, who renders services in and about the employers home and which services are usually necessary or desirables for the maintenance and enjoyment thereof, exclusively to the personal comfort and enjoyment of the employers family. The term includes family drivers, domestic servants, laundry women, yayas, gardeners, houseboys, and other similar houseboys.
The Ministry of Interior announced recently that effective April 1, 2007, the UAE will require unified domestic workers contract. The obligations of both the employer and the worker will be defined in the employment contract particularly on:
1. monthly salary (to be agreed upon by the parties)
2. organizing work & vacations
3. travel tickets
5. good treatment
6. health care
7. death & burial
8. duration of contract
9. resolution in case of conflict between the parties (disputes if not amicably settled, shall
be resolve by a division in the Immigration Department).
10. approval of the contract
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