Understanding the UAE labour law

Labour regulations in the UAE are governed by the UAE Labour Law – Federal Law No. 8 of 1980. In areas like the Jebel Ali Free Zone, there are special labour-related regulations applicable in the UAE. The ones to whom the law applies to are the staff and workers employed by the federal government, municipalities, public bodies and local institutions, members of the armed forces, police and security, domestic servants and those working in the agricultural sectors. Under the UAE labour law, A partner in business if not considered an employee, and hence does not need to acquire the labour card.

The law covers all aspects of the employer-employee relationship, including those related to employment contracts, restrictions on the employment of juveniles and women, wages, safety and protection of employees, medical and social care, codes of discipline, termination of employment contracts, labour inspections, injuries and death. The UAE does not allow the formation of trade unions. So, if you’re planning on moving to Dubai for a living, read the law fully to be fully aware.

In order to employ an expatriate in any part of the UAE, an application must be made to the Ministry. The application will be rejected if it isn’t approved by the Ministry, especially if it’s a new business. Sometimes, there is also a requirement to submit a bank guarantee as security, for a few select employers. The UAE labour law also caters to national employees. If the intended employee is a UAE national, then the employment contract can be entered into at any point of time. The contract must follow the same format which has been approved by the employer. However, an employment contracts need not be applicable for national employees provided they have proof admissible by law.

For those moving to Dubai, these are the main information that should be provided. The wages payable, date of the employment contract, date of commencement, nature of the contract, nature of the work, duration of the contract, and the location of the employment are among the most important that has to be in place.

To give a clearer picture and to avoid misinterpretations, this is what the UAE labour law constitutes of:

Legally, only the Arabic version of a contract is valid in the UAE.

Having a written contract is at least something. A verbal contract is worth much less.

You should read your contract carefully before accepting a position and resolve any questions or issues before signing it. Make sure you have a written copy of any changes negotiated, or a revised contract. That’s important. If an issue is unresolved before signing a contract, expect it to stay that way no matter what you are told.

You should be given an English version. Consider carefully the implications of what you are doing if you sign a contract in Arabic without understanding it.

Alarm bells should go off if a company will not send you a copy of the contract before you arrive, or they ask you to sign what appears to be a different contract when you do arrive.

If you do have a problem with your employer and want a legal opinion, there are many lawyers available (who charge a fee of course). See a list of possible lawyers in UAE to try.

It is possible that you end up in a situation where it is difficult to resolve things even if the law is apparently on your side. You can expect that the one with the most wasta (influence, power) will win, in which case, put your tail between your legs and hope the door doesn’t hit you on your way out.

Your embassy might be able to help by providing you a list of lawyers to contact.

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