Last updated on: July 18th, 2023
The Labor Law for private sector employees in the UAE is regulated mainly by Federal Law Number 33 of 2021 (New Labour Law). The Labor Law applies across the UAE including each of the seven Emirates and its free zones except the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM).
The laws govern the terms and conditions of employment such as working hours, holidays and rest periods, wages, overtime, leaves, and other employment relationships.
Hours & Pay Regulations
An employee is entitled to paid annual leave which is not less than:
- 30 calendar days for each year of service;
- 2 calendar days for each month in cases where the term of service was more than 6 months and less than 1 year;
- Leave entitlement for the remaining period of the last year of work if the employee’s service ends before utilizing the annual leave balance.
The calculation of the duration of annual leave will include official holidays specified by law or by agreement, and any other leaves caused by sickness if they fall within the annual leave unless the employment contract or the company’s regulations have other provisions.
Annual leave for part-time employees – A part-time employee shall be entitled to annual leave in accordance with the actual number of working hours spent at work. The period of such leave shall be specified in the employment contract of the employee.
Timing of Annual Leave – Employees shall take their annual leave in the same leave year. This means that the employees shall have to make use of their earned annual leave in the year in which it falls due.
Carry Forward of Leave – Upon the employer’s approval and in accordance with the regulations applicable within the organization, the employee may carry the annual leave balance either in full or in part to the following year. The employer may not prevent the employee from taking the annual leave accrued for more than 2 years unless the employee wishes to carry forward or receive cash payment against such annual leave balance.
Annual Leave Entitlement under DIFC and ADGM – In DIFC and ADGM, an employee who has been employed for at least 90 days is entitled to paid annual leave of 20 working days in each annual leave year. An employee is entitled to carry forward up to 5 working days of accrued but untaken annual leave into the next annual leave year for a maximum period of 12 months after which any unused annual leave shall expire.
In ADGM, employers are required to provide employees with the opportunity to take annual leave for a duration of one week or longer. Annual leave cannot be converted into sick leave if an employee is sick during any period of annual leave.
Annual Leave Pay – An employee is entitled to wages during the period of annual leave.
In DIFC, an employee is entitled to be paid for their daily wage during annual leave. An employee shall not be provided with any payment in lieu of annual leave unless otherwise agreed by the employee in writing.
Public Holiday during Annual Leave – Public holidays falling during the annual leave of an employee shall be included in the annual leave and shall be considered as part of annual leave unless otherwise provided by the employment contract. In DIFC and ADGM, annual leave is exclusive of Public holidays to which an employee is entitled.
Termination of Employment
An employee will be entitled to payment upon termination of employment for the amount of annual leave unused, and this payment shall be calculated using basic pay only.
In DIFC and ADGM, an employer shall pay the employee an amount in lieu of annual leave accrued but not taken, up to and including the termination date at the employee’s daily wage rate.
In cases, where the employee has taken more annual leave than has accrued at the termination date, the employer shall be entitled to deduct an amount equal to the employee’s daily wages from any payments due to the employee on the termination date.
Annual leave during the first year of employment in DIFC and ADGM
An employee’s annual leave accrues during an employee’s first year of employment on a monthly basis at the rate of 1/12th of the employee’s annual entitlement to annual leave. During the first year of employment, the amount of annual leave an employee may take is limited to the remaining amount of annual leave accrued by the employee at the time of taking such annual leave.
Entitlements under other leaves provisions in DIFC and ADGM
When an employee is entitled to a rest period, break, special leave, annual leave, sick leave, or parental leave, the employee may elect to take the more favorable leave but will not be entitled to both. For example, if an employee becomes sick during their vacation period, they have the choice to either continue with their annual leave or take sick leave. They cannot take both vacation annual leave and sick leave for the same period of time.
There is no minimum salary stipulated in the UAE Labour Law, however, it broadly mentions that salaries must cover the basic needs of the employees.
However, the Cabinet based on the Minister’s proposal and in liaison with the relevant authorities may issue a Resolution specifying the minimum wages of employees.
An employee is entitled to sick leave not exceeding 90 working days in total whether consecutive or nonconsecutive. An employee who sustains an illness not caused by the occupational injury shall inform the employer by no later than 3 working days. Employees are not entitled to paid sick leave during the probationary period. However, the employer may grant unpaid sick leave based on the medical report.
Pay: An employee is entitled to receive full pay for the first 15 days of sickness, thereafter half pay for 30 days, and unpaid sick leaves thereafter. The employee shall not be entitled to the wage during the sick leave if the illness has directly arisen from the ill behavior of the employee such as –
- If the disease resulted from the employee’s misconduct, such as their consumption of alcohol or drugs.
- If the employee violated the safety instructions in accordance with the legislation in force in the State such as the instructions related to crises and disasters, traffic regulations or any safety procedures and rules set out in the establishment’s regulations that the employee was informed of and they have acknowledged their understanding thereof and compliance therewith.
In DIFC and ADGM, an employee is entitled to sick leave of 60 working consecutive or intermittent work days in aggregate in a 12-month period. An employee who requests sick leave shall personally, or have someone on the employee’s behalf as soon as reasonably practicable notify the employer that the employee is unable to work due to sickness.
Sick Leave Pay – An employee is entitled to sick pay at 100% of the employee’s daily wage for the first 10 work days of sick leave; and 50% of the employee’s daily wage for the next 20 work days of sick leave and 30 work days without pay taken during a 12 month period.
Termination of Employment – An employee shall not be entitled to receive any wage for any additional sick leave taken in the same 12-month period. In case, an employee takes more than an aggregate of 60 work days of sick leave in a 12-month period, the employer may terminate the employment with immediate effect. This does not apply in cases, where the employee takes sick leave on account of a disability.
In ADGM, employees with a contract of employment for 1 month or less are not entitled to sick pay. Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, Art 31; ADGM, Art 29, 20; DIFC, Art 34-26.
Employees are entitled to 60 days of maternity leave of which 45 days will be fully paid and the rest 15 days shall be paid in half. Female employees shall also be entitled to additional maternity leave for a duration of 45 days without pay after the initial maternity leave is ended in case of any post-pregnancy complications or ailment in the newborn child.
Employees are also entitled to 60 calendar days of maternity leave with pay in the case of stillborn babies and new-born deaths. The new mothers of children in need of special care will also be able to take 30 days of paid leave after completing their initial maternity leave period which can also be renewed for another 30 days without pay.
Maternity leave would not be payable to such female employees who work for another employer during the authorized maternity leave. Employees on maternity leave continue to accrue other time off which the employee is entitled to if maternity leave had not been taken.
Breastfeeding break – Female employees after returning to work from maternity leave shall be entitled to paid one or two breaks for the purpose of breastfeeding for a period of no more than 6 months. The total duration of the break shall not exceed 1 hour.
Maternity leave in DIFC and ADGM
In the DIFC and ADGM, female employees are entitled to 65 working days of maternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child of less than 3 months old in ADGM and age of 5 years in DIFC, if the employee has been continuously employed for at least 12 months.
An employee must notify their employer at least 8 weeks before the expected week of childbirth and if the employer requests then the employee must provide a medical practitioner’s certificate stating the expected or actual birth date. Employees must also notify their employer in writing at least 21 days before the day the employee proposes to begin their maternity leave.
Annual leave shall continue to accrue during maternity leave and can be taken consecutively to maternity leave subject to the reasonable needs of the employer’s business. Any public holiday falling on a work day during the maternity leave period shall be treated as additional leave which will extend the maternity leave by the period of the public holiday.
Maternity leave pay in DIFC and ADGM
An employer shall pay maternity pay to an employee at 100% of the employee’s daily wages for the first 33 workdays of maternity leave and 50% of the employee’s daily wage for the next 32 workdays of maternity leave. An employee is not entitled to receive compensation in lieu of accrued untaken maternity leave.
In DIFC, a female employee who has resumed work after maternity leave and whose working time exceeds 6 hours in a day is entitled to nursing breaks of at least 1 hour in aggregate during the workday for a period of 6 months following the actual date of childbirth. Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, Art 30; ADGM, Art 33, 34; DIFC, Art 37,38.
Male employees are entitled to 5 working days of paid leave from the day of the birth of their child to 6 months of age. Such leave is to be availed either consecutively or non-consecutively.
Paternity Leave under DIFC – In DIFC, a male employee who has been in continuous employment for their employer for at least 12 months including any period of transfer, immediately preceding the expected or actual week of their wife giving birth and notifies their employer at least 8 weeks before the expected week of childbirth is entitled to paid leave up to 5 work days for childbirth and adoption of a child of less than 5 years of age. Paternity leave must be taken within a month from the date of –
- the child is born; or
- in cases where the child is adopted, the adoption date of the child.
Paternity pay in DIFC – An employee is entitled to payment of their daily wage for the duration of paternity leave and shall not be entitled to receive compensation in lieu of accused untaken paternity leave. Any public holiday falling on a workday during the maternity leave period shall be treated as additional leave which will extend the maternity leave by the period of the public holiday.
Paternity Leave under ADGM – In ADGM, an employee is entitled to a minimum paid paternity leave for 5 working days which shall be taken within 2 months from the date of birth of the child. The employer shall pay for the paternity leave at the employee’s normal daily wage. An employee cannot receive compensation in lieu of paternity leave. If any national holiday occurs during the period of paternity leave, the leave will be extended by the duration of the national holiday. Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, Art 32; ADGM, Art 35; DIFC, Art 39.
Employees are entitled to a parental leave of 5 working days (paternity leave) from the day of the birth of their child to six months. Parental leave is a paid leave that can be applied for by the mother or father of the baby. Such leave is to be availed either consecutively or non-consecutively. Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, Art 32.
In DIFC and ADGM, an employee who has completed at least one year of continuous employment with an employer is entitled to special unpaid leave not exceeding 30 days to perform Hajj pilgrimage once during the period of employment with the employer. ADGM, Art 28; DIFC, Art 33.
An employee who is an affiliate student or a full-time student at an accredited educational institution inside the State may be granted a paid study leave for 10 working days per year for the purpose of taking the examinations, provided that the employee has completed at least 2 years of service with the employer.
The employee is required to submit to the employer an admission document from a State-accredited institute or college, specifying the field of study, area of specialization, and duration of the program. Additionally, the employer has the right to ask for evidence of the employee’s examination dates. Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, Art 32, UAE Cabinet Resolution No.1 of 2022; Art 21.
An employee shall be entitled to the following paid bereavement leave:
- 5 working days for the death of a spouse.
- 3 working days for the death of the mother, the father, any of the sons, the brother, the sister, any of the grandsons, the grandfather, or the grandmother starting from the date of death.
The employer shall be entitled to a bereavement leave starting from the date of the death, provided that the employee must present a death certificate as proof of death to the employer. Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, Art 32, UAE Cabinet Resolution No.1 of 2022; Art 21
An employee shall be entitled to a paid sabbatical leave to perform the National or Reserve Service, according to the laws applicable in the State. The duration of leave shall be determined by the employer. Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, Art 32, UAE Cabinet Resolution No.1 of 2022; Art 21.
An employee is entitled to unpaid leave in addition to other leaves upon receiving consent from their employer. However, such leave would not be taken into consideration for the purpose of calculating the term of service with the employer. Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, Art 33.
In DIFC and ADGM, an employee who is pregnant or whose wife is pregnant and has made an appointment to receive antenatal care is entitled to take a reasonable period of paid time off at an hourly rate of wages during working hours in order to attend such an appointment. When requested by their employer, the employee must provide the following information:
- reasonable notice of an ante-natal appointment;
- a certificate from a medical practitioner registered with a Competent Authority confirming the pregnancy, and
- written confirmation from a medical practitioner registered with a Competent Authority of the appointment for ante-natal care.
In DIFC, an employee who plans to adopt a child is entitled to take up to an aggregate paid time off for 8 hours during working hours in order to attend adoption proceedings if they
- give the employer reasonable notice of the adoption proceedings; and
- provide their employer with reasonable adoption proceeding evidence if required.
ADGM, Article 51; DIFC, Article 41.