Placing the wellbeing of residents and visitors as their highest priority, Abu Dhabi has developed a modern workplace with work-life balance, mental health, and worker flexibility at the front of mind.
If you are working in the UAE, it’s important to understand the employment laws and regulations to maintain a good relationship with your employer and ensure that your rights are protected.
New Labour Law
In February 2022, a new Labour Law, Federal Law Number 33 of 2021 (the New Labour Law) came into effect and applies to all companies and employees in the private sector in the UAE and its free zones, with exception of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). For further information on ADGM.
Working time, holidays, and flexible working
To keep in line with the UAE’s vision to enhance its global competitiveness, and keep pace with global developments, the working week has been overhauled with reduced hours.
The Working Week
On 1st January 2022 all UAE federal government employees moved to a new weekend of half day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Working hours are Monday to Thursdays starting at 7.30am and ending at 3.30pm; Friday working hours are 7.30am to 12 noon. There is also flexibility for government staff to work from home on Fridays, as well as to arrange their working hours on a flexi-time basis. All schools operate from Monday to Friday. The private sector also works a Monday to Friday week.
Restrictions on working hours
Contracted working hours must not exceed eight hours per day or 48 hours per week, over a six-day work week. However, this can be increased to a maximum of ten hours per day for some businesses (with these additional two hours counting as overtime). Working hours are reduced by two hours per day during the Holy month of Ramadan.
A worker is entitled to paid leave for each year of service of not less than:
- Two calendar days per month, for a worker who has more than six months' service but less than one year's service.
- 30 calendar days per annum, for a worker with more than one year's service.
*Holiday entitlement depends on the entity workers are employed by, and whether it is part of the private or public sector. For some entities, it can be 30 working days or 30 calendar days..
In addition to the minimum holiday entitlements, workers are entitled to be paid public holidays as declared by the UAE Government. The UAE Government declares the length of each national holiday before the holiday takes place for both the public and private sectors (the entitlements can differ). The lunar calendar determines the dates of some national holidays.
The Labour Law contains provisions that allow for a flexible work model, under which an employee's working hours and/or working days can vary depending on the employer's workload and other economic and operational variables. An employee's working schedule can therefore be varied from week to week under these flexible work model arrangements.
Female employees are entitled to three months of fully paid maternity leave. After the female employee resumes, she is entitled to two hours of daily leave for the first year after delivery to nurse her child. Male employees are entitled to three days' paternity leave.
Protection from Discrimination
The Labour Law prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of race, colour, gender, religion, national origin, social origin and/or disability, where such discrimination may impair equal opportunities, prejudice equality, or prevent the employee from continuing in their job and enjoying their personal rights. Employers are prohibited from dismissing an employee (or threatening to dismiss an employee) if an employee is pregnant or on maternity leave.
The Labour Law also provides that male and female employees who perform the same work should receive equal pay.
Fixed term contracts not exceeding three years.
Part time, flexible work and temporary work defined and recognised.
Minimum 30 days and maximum 90 days.
Non-discrimination restrictions include discrimination based on race, colour, gender, religion, national or ethnic origin or disability.
Prohibits sexual, physical, oral, or psychological harassment and allows employees subject to harassment to terminate their employment without notice.
30 calendar days.
Female employees are entitled to three months of fully paid maternity leave and two hours of daily leave for the first year after delivery to nurse her child. Male employees are entitled to three days' paternity leave.
Between 3 to 5 days of leave for those grieving the loss of a wife, husband, father, mother, sister, brother, child, grandfather, grandmother or grandchild.
End of Service Gratuity
- Basic salary of 21 calendar days against each of the first five years of service; and
- Basic salary of 30 calendar days against each subsequent year of service
- Benefit still payable if an employee is terminated for gross misconduct
Employees may work a maximum of 2 overtime hours per day, but total working hours will be restricted to 144 every three weeks.
All overtime based on basic salary.
Further info on Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)
Three authorities register, regulate and apply English common law in ADGM:
- Registration Authority
- Financial Services Regulatory Authority
- ADGM Courts
On 1st January 2020, Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the International Financial Centre in Abu Dhabi, issued new Employment Regulations 2019 and the Compensation Awards and Limits Rules 2019, replacing its previous legislative framework regarding employment matters. The new legislation takes into consideration the public consultation that was undertaken to review and improve ADGM’s legislative framework relating to employment.
The new Regulations and Rules strengthen ADGM’s employment framework in the interests of both employers and employees. The amendments were made to promote international best practices and to attract and retain the top talent available.
The key changes introduced by the Regulations and Rules include:
- New overtime provisions for employees
- Aligning certain employees’ entitlements with those on shore (including repatriation flight tickets and sick leave)
- Changes allowing employers and employees more flexibility in negotiating notice periods
- Introducing protective provisions for youth aged between 15 and 18 years
- Introducing a discretionary power to the ADGM Courts to impose penalties on employers for failure to pay employees’ entitlements due on termination.
For further information, visit ADGM