UAE Labor Law
by Al Mubasheri | October 2014
Labor matters in the 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 (the “Law”). There are special labor related regulations applicable in some of the free zones in the UAE, such as the Jebel Ali Free Zone.
According to Article 3 of the Law, the Law applies to all staff and employees working in the UAE, whether UAE nationals or expatriates. However, there are certain categories of individuals who are exempted from the Law as listed below:
1. Staff and workers employed by the federal government, government departments of the member emirates.
2. Municipalities, public bodies, federal and local public institutions and those staff and workers employed in federal and local governmental projects.
3. Members of the armed forces, police and security units.
4. Domestic servants.
5. Agricultural workers and persons engaged in grazing (this exemption does not include persons who are employed in corporations which process agricultural products and/or those who are permanently engaged in the operation or repair of machines required for agriculture).
A partner in a business is not considered an employee and is therefore not required to obtain a labor card from the UAE. On the other hand, employees working on a commission basis are considered as employees even if they are partners in the entity they are working for.
Although the law stipulates that all employees other than the ones listed above are subject to it, in practice employees in the free zones, such as Jebel Ali Free Zone and the Dubai Airport Free Zone, are subject to the rules and regulations of the free zone concerns and maintain their own employment contracts. However, as mentioned above, the law will still apply and the provisions in the employment contract must be in accordance with the Law. Moreover, it should be noted that free zone employees are sponsored by the relevant free zones and not by their employees.
The Law covers all aspects of the employer-employee relationship, including matters related to employment contracts, restrictions on the employment of juveniles and women, maintenance of records and files, wages, working hours, leave, safety and protection of employees, medical and social care, codes of discipline, termination of employment contracts, end of service benefits, compensation for occupational diseases, labor inspections, penalties and employment related accidents, injuries and death.
The UAE does not allow the formation of trade unions.
The Law is federal and is therefore applicable to all the emirates of the federation. It is enforced by the Ministry. Labor related litigation is adjudicated by the federal and local courts of the UAE; however, all disputes relating to labor matters must first be referred to the Ministry. If either of the parties involved (employer or employee) is unhappy with the Ministry’s decision and the matter cannot be settled amicably, the dispute may then be referred by the Ministry to court, within two weeks from the date in which the complaint was filed, after which either party may revert to the court directly.
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