New labour rules in UAE respond to changing nature of work

The recent decision to have a 4.5-day workweek will go a long way in redefining our quality of lives



What does a new workweek mean to people who live and work in the UAE? Better work-life balance and a healthier mental space?

The recent decision to have a 4.5-day workweek will go a long way in redefining our quality of lives. It is a welcome first step in addressing the issues of burnouts resulting from the pandemic and the uneven curve of mental health.

The UAE government, however, is not stopping at the shortened workweek alone, it has also introduced new labour rules that make welcome changes for employees working in the public as well as the private sector, who will now be entitled to the same kinds of leaves as authorised by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

Both citizens as well as residents can now opt for flexible, temporary or part-time jobs with federal government and public companies from February 2, 2022. This liberalises an employee’s options and enables them to have part-time contracts at both federal and private sectors. They are also free to work for more than one employer for a stipulated number of hours under the part-time scheme. Alternatively, employees can also choose the number of work hours under the flexible work scheme. Lastly, employees can be hired on a project basis under which they are contractually obliged to work for an employer till a certain time.

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The revisions do not end there. Fulltime employees in both the sectors will be eligible for a 30-day annual leave. Expecting mothers can enjoy a maternity break for 60 days, of which 45 days will be fully paid while only half the salary will be given for the rest of the 15 days. The conversation on paternity leave has not been overlooked either. Male employees can claim a five-day paternity break during the first six months of the child’s birth. Death of a spouse will entitle employees to a five-day leave while demise of a family member will make them eligible for a three-day break. They can also take 90 days of sick leave, which may include 15 days of paid and 30 days of half-paid and remaining period of unpaid leaves. If associated with an educational programme in a UAE-accredited university or institute, they may also take a 10-day leave to prepare for exams.

The policy change is indicative of how the authorities like to keep their ear to the ground and respond to the changing needs of the time. The pandemic has ushered in a very different era of work. One where just having an employee work from home isn’t quite enough. Their mental health, the ability to strike work-life balance and general well-being are aspects where the employer must feel invested in. What a policy-level change then does is that it empowers employers and employees to safeguard their priorities without any substantial impact on the output. In that sense, the revised rules are sure to usher in positive developments.


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