Private sector employment in the UAE generally is governed by the Country’s Federal Labor Law, although many free zones have issued their own employment regulations. Whenever there is any inconsistency between regulations of the Free Zone compared to Labor law, the terms most favorable to employees prevail. Some free zones have employment laws that supersede certain provisions of the UAE’s Labor Law, such as the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM).
Hours & Pay Regulations
Working hours for employees cannot exceed 8 per day or 48 per week. The workday may be increased to 9 hours for commercial establishments, hotels, cafeterias, security services, and other businesses designated by the Minister of labor and social affairs.
Reduction of working hours
Daily work hours are reduced by 2 hours per day during Ramadan. The daily number of working hours may be reduced for strenuous or harmful works by virtue of a decision from the government authority. The commutation periods spent by the employee from the place of residence to the worksite shall not be calculated within the working hours.
In the DIFC and ADGM weekly working hours cannot exceed, on average, 48 hours over a seven day period, unless the employer obtains the employee’s prior written consent to work longer hours.
During Ramadan, a Muslim employee shall not be required to work in excess of 6 hours each day. There should be no reduction in wages as a result of reduced working hours.
An employer shall maintain a correct record consisting of employee’s working hours, wages, payroll records, etc of each of his/her employees at employer’s principal place of business during employee’s employment period as well as for a period of 6 years in DIFC and 2 years in ADGM after the date of termination of employment.
Should the work circumstances require the carrying out by the employees of work for more than the ordinary working hours, the additional period shall be deemed overtime, for which the employee shall be paid a wage equivalent to the ordinary hourly wage with an addition of at least 25% of the said wage.
Should the work circumstances require the carrying out by the employee of an overtime work between 9 pm and 4 am, the employee shall be entitled, in counterpart for the overtime, to a wage equivalent to the ordinary hourly wage with an addition of at least 50% of the said wage.
Effective overtime working hours may not exceed two hours per day unless such work is necessary for the prevention of the occurrence of a colossal loss, a serious accident, or the removal or mitigation of the consequences thereof.
In ADGM, an employee who works in excess of 832 hours over a 4 month reference period (the Threshold) is entitled to overtime compensation. The overtime calculation can either be monetary, time in lieu, or a combination of both as may be decided by the employer.
Monetary compensation is payable in the below manner:
- An employee who works overtime is entitled to in addition to daily wages an amount payable at the rate of 25% of hourly rate or time in lieu as appropriate.
- For overtime worked between 9 pm and 4 am, the overtime compensation rate is 50% of the hourly rate or time in lieu as appropriate.
Overtime payments must be paid within 1 month of the 4 month period which they relate to. The overtime calculation for a period of fewer than 4 months will be done on a pro-rata basis. Employees in managerial or supervisory positions etc are not entitled to overtime compensation.
No employee may work more than 5 consecutive hours without breaks for rest, meals, and prayers amounting in the aggregate to not less than 1 hour. These breaks are not included as part of the employee’s working hours.
In ADGM, an employee whose working time is more than 6 hours is entitled to rest and prayer breaks of not less than 1 hour in aggregate, which an employee can take away from his/her workplace.
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.
In DIFC and ADGM, an employee is entitled to a rest period of not less than 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hour period.
Friday shall be the ordinary weekly rest for all employees with the exception of the daily employee. If the circumstances require that the employee work on this day, the employee shall be entitled to a substitute rest day, or to the basic wage for the ordinary working hours in addition to 50% at least of the said wage.
The employees may not be requested to work for more than two consecutive Fridays with the exception of the day employees. In DIFC and ADGM, an employee is entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of not less than 24 hours in each 7 day period. Friday, Saturday shall be the ordinary weekly rest days in DIFC.
Employees in the UAE are entitled to leave with full pay for the following 10 public holidays, the dates for most of which vary year to year according to the lunar calendar:
- Jan. 1: New Year’s Day
- Birthday of Prophet Mohammed
- Al-Isra and Al Mi’raj (Ascension of the Prophet)
- Eid al–Fitr (2 days)
- Eid al-Adha (3 days)
- New Year’s Day (Islamic calendar)
- Dec. 2: UAE National Day
Payment for Working on a Public Holiday
In the event an employee is required to work on a statutory holiday (and is entitled to receive a full or partial salary), the employer must provide the employee with compensatory leave and a bonus equal to 50 percent of the employee’s salary. If the employer does not provide compensatory rest, it must pay a bonus equal to 150 percent of the employee’s base salary for each day worked. There is no day in lieu when public holidays fall on a weekend.
In DIFC, an employer shall pay an employee their daily wage for each Public Holiday. An employee who works on a Public holiday will receive in addition to their daily wage either: a day off in lieu of the public holiday worked, an amount equal to the employee’s daily wage for the public holiday work, or payment of a prorated amount of the employee’s daily wage based on the time period worked during the public holiday.
In ADGM, employees are entitled to the national holidays that are announced in UAE and which fall on a working day. However, such leave can be replaced by –
- a day in lieu;
- a payment in lieu; or
- a prorated amount relating to the period of time worked, where each of the employer and the employee so agree in writing.
Employees who have completed at least one year of service with their employers are entitled to 30 days’ paid annual leave. Employees with more than six months of service but less than one year are entitled to two days’ annual leave per month of employment.
The employer may set the date for commencement of an employee’s annual leave and may divide that leave into two or more periods. An employee loses vacation pay for failing to report to work on the day immediately following vacation.
In DIFC and ADGM, an employee who has been employed for at least 90 days is entitled to paid vacation leave of 20 workdays in each vacation leave year. An employee is entitled to carry forward up to 5 workdays of accrued but untaken vacation leave into the next vacation leave year for a maximum period of 12 months after which any unused vacation leave shall expire.
In ADGM, an employer shall allow the employee to take a vacation in periods of 1 week or more. Vacation leave cannot be converted into sick leave if an employee is sick during any period of vacation leave.
Annual Vacation Pay
An employee shall receive a basic wage and a housing allowance for his/her annual vacation. An employee who is required to work during his/her annual vacation and such days of leave cannot be carried forward to the next year, in such cases, the employer must pay the employee’s wages in addition to a leave allowance in an amount equal to his/her basic wage for the days of work in annual leave.
The employer shall pay to the employee prior to the annual leave the entire wage due in addition to the leave pay.
In DIFC, an employee is entitled to be paid for their daily wage during vacation leave. An employee shall not be provided any payment in lieu of vacation leave unless otherwise agreed by the employee in writing.
Public Holiday during Annual Vacation
Public holidays and any other leave caused by illness occurs during an annual leave of an employee shall be included in the vacation leave and which shall be considered as part of annual leave. In DIFC and ADGM, vacation leave is exclusive of Public holidays to which an employee is entitled.
Work during Annual Vacation
An employee who works during his total annual leave or a part of leave and such leave is not carried forward to the next year, the employer shall pay the employee wages for the work during such leave in addition to a leave allowance for the days of work as an amount equal to his/her basic wage.
An employee who works during holidays or leaves for which a complete or partial payment is made, the employee shall be granted a substitute leave as well as an increase in the wage amounting to 50%. In case, an employee is not granted a substitute leave, the employer shall pay to the employee an additional sum to the basic salary amounting to 150% with regards to the days of work. An employee shall not be required to work during the annual leave for more than once within 2 consecutive years.
Vacation Pay upon Termination
An employer shall pay any sums for accrued annual leave days which shall be calculated on the basis of the wages paid to the employee at the time of such leave.
In DIFC and ADGM, an employer shall pay the employee an amount in lieu of vacation 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 vacation 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.
Vacation leave during the first year of employment in DIFC and ADGM
An employee’s vacation 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 vacation leave. During the first year of employment, the amount of vacation leave an employee may take is limited to the remaining amount of vacation leave accrued by the employee at the time of taking such vacation leave.
Entitlements under other leaves provisions in DIFC and ADGM
When an employee is entitled to a rest period, break, special leave, vacation leave, sick leave, or parental leave, the employee may elect to take the more favorable leaves but will not be entitled to both.
There is no prescribed minimum wage in UAE at the federal level. Private-sector employers should ensure to pay their staff’s salaries through the Wages Protection System
After completing three months of continuous service with an employer after the probationary period, an employee is entitled to annual sick leave not exceeding 90 consecutive or non-consecutive days for every year of service. The first 15 days of sick leave are with full pay, the next 30 days at half pay, and any subsequent periods without pay. Employees are not entitled to paid sick leave during the probationary period. No paid sick leave is available for illnesses that are the direct result of the employee’s misconduct, such as consumption of alcohol or narcotic drugs.
In DIFC and ADGM, an employee is entitled to sick leave of 60 consecutive or intermittent workdays in aggregate in a 12 month period. An employer shall provide sick pay to an employee at 100% of the employee’s daily wage for the first 10 workdays of sick leave; and 50% of the employee’s daily wage for the next 20 workdays of sick leave and 30 workdays without pay taken during a 12 month period.
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 workdays 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.
Pregnant employees are entitled to 45 days of maternity leave, including time off before and after the birth of the baby. For employees who have completed at least one year of continuous service with their employers, maternity leave is with full pay. Employees without the requisite year of service are entitled to maternity leave at half pay. An employee who has exhausted her maternity leave may be absent from work without pay for an additional period of up to 100 consecutive or non-consecutive days if the absence is due to illness resulting from pregnancy or delivery that prevents her from resuming work.
During the first 18 months after delivery, a female employee is entitled to two additional breaks per day of no more than 30 minutes each for the purpose of nursing her child. The additional breaks are considered part of working hours and do not entail any reduction of pay.
Maternity leave in DIFC and ADGM
In the ADGM, female employees are entitled to 65 days of maternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child of fewer than 3 months old, if the employee has been continuously employed for at least 12 months.
In DIFC, a female employee who has been in continuous employment with her employer for at least 12 months including any period of transfer, immediately preceding the expected or actual week of childbirth and notifies her employer in writing at least 21 days before the day on which the employee proposes to begin her leave is entitled to leave up to 65 workdays for childbirth and adoption of a child of fewer than 5 years of age.
Vacation leave shall continue to accrue during maternity leave and can be taken consecutively to maternity leave subject to reasonable needs of the employer’s business. 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.
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.
There are no provisions in the national labor law for paternity leave.
In DIFC, a male employee who has been in continuous employment for his employer for at least 12 months including any period of transfer, immediately preceding the expected or actual week of his wife giving birth and notifies his employer at least 8 weeks before the expected week of childbirth is entitled to pay for leave up to 5 workdays for childbirth and adoption of a child of fewer 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.
In ADGM, an employee is entitled to a minimum paid leave for 5 business days which shall be taken within 2 months from the date of birth of the child. The employer shall pay for the leave at the employee’s normal daily wage. An employee cannot receive compensation in lieu of paternity leave. In case of any National Holiday falling within the paternity leave shall extend the leave by the period of a national holiday.
Employees are entitled to a parental leave of 5 working days from the day of the birth of their child to six months. Parental leave is a paid leave that can be applied for by both mother and father of the baby.
Every Muslim employee must be granted an unpaid leave of up to 30 days for the purpose of pilgrimage. Such leave may be taken only once during the course of employment and may not be deducted from any other period of leave to which the employee is entitled.
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 21 days to perform Hajj pilgrimage once during the period of employment with the employer.
Time off for antenatal care and adoption proceedings in DIFC and ADGM
In DIFC, 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
An employee who plans to adopt a child is entitled to take up to an aggregate paid time off for 8 hours during the working hours in order to attend adoption proceedings.
In ADGM, an employee who is pregnant and has made an appointment to receive antenatal care is entitled to take time off during the employee’s working hours which shall be paid at an employee’s hourly rate.
Last updated on: October 23rd, 2020