Know your Labor Rights in the United Arab Emirates

Hassan Elhais

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Some Employees do not know their rights upon the termination of their employment contracts, so the issue has to be carefully considered. Introduction - This article shall elaborate on the duties employer’s regarding registration of employees and the rights of employees after the termination of their labor contracts in the UAE.

In general terms, all expatriate employees who wish to work in the UAE must be employed by an appropriately licensed and approved company and must be issued with an entry permit for employment purposes, a labor card (work permit) and a residence visa.

Some Employees do not know their rights upon the termination of their employment contracts, so the issue has to be carefully considered.

Comply with the Law

Employment relations in the private sector in the UAE are governed and regulated by Federal Law No. 8 on Regulation of Labor Relations for the year 1980. Employing foreign workers in the UAE entails complying with certain registration procedures such as residence visa. If an employee doesn’t have work permission and/or company sponsorship, article 13 of the Labor Law obliges the employer employing a foreigner to obtain permission and/or company sponsorship from the Ministry of Labor.

The Labor Law is protective of employees in general and supersedes conflicting contractual provisions agreed under another jurisdiction unless they are beneficial to the employee. Furthermore, this rule is applicable to the Free Zones taking into account that there is no work permission.

Probation Period and Seven Rights

It is important to note that any provision of the labor contract is invalid if it either contradicts the UAE labor law or conflicts of the public interest. These provisions can relate to the establishment of the probation period, gratuity, notice period, salary or to any penalty applied to the employee. According to the Federal Law No.8 of the year, 1980 probation period cannot exceed six months.

The Labor Law provides the Employees with mainly seven rights that have to be followed by the employer upon the termination of the labor contract. According to the Labor Law, an employee terminating his contract has rights to:

1. Get his/her unpaid salary;

2. Get charges for extra hours of work;

3. Have annual leave;

4. Get gratuity (21 days basic remuneration for every year of the first five years of service and 1 month any year after. );

5. Get an air ticket;

6. Notice period salary; and

7. Get a compensation for unfair dismissal (with maximum three months, but this period can be even more if it is not mentioned in the contract).

As well as these seven rights, there can be additional rights which are included in the contract such as commission and bonuses.

However, if the termination happens within the probation period, which can be 6 months or less depending on the contract, the employee will not have the right to claim the rights mentioned above. He will only be entitled to unpaid salary, charges for extra hours of work and air ticket. The bar time on labor matters for Dubai-based companies is 1 year from the moment of termination of the labor contract.

How to Claim the Rights?

It is significant that in order for an employee to be able to apply for UAE Labor Authorities regarding any legal matter, he/she should have or had a work permission and/or company sponsorship. Otherwise, UAE Labor Authorities will not deal with a matter.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (the Ministry) is the main body responsible for the regulation of manpower recruitment and it plays a substantial role in settling labor differences between employers and employees. It should be noted that all labor disputes must initially be submitted to the Labor Department of the Ministry for amicable settlement if the company is onshore.

The same regulation is applicable in the Free Zones. However, Free Zones have their own Legal Department where lawyers should not attend. For this reason before filing a case to the Court, one should take a letter of reply from Free Zone Legal Department for his claim.

In a case, if an employee works for Governmental Entity, he should apply to the ruler office first and they have to issue Non-Objection Certificate (NOC).

The application is then handed to the concerned labor authority, who will arrange a meeting between the employee and the employer. The goal of such meeting is to come to the settlement of the issue.

One may wonder about the reasons for going through the above-mentioned steps. Indeed, it is one of the most important requirements of Labor Code. Applying through these labor authorities help people to settle a high rate of issues between employers and employees. Moreover, such measures save time and decrease the number of cases before the courts. However, the lawyers are not able to attend the meetings with the labor authorities. This step has to be made personally by the employee. The filing of the claim to labor authorities does not cost anything, which can be counted as an additional benefit of this procedure.


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