New UAE labour law aims to breed sensible, hardworking adults

Employment will teach teenagers early on lessons on responsibility, accountability, good work habits, interpersonal skills and organisational abilities.


Rasha Abu Baker

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Published: Wed 2 Feb 2022, 10:44 PM

Over the last year, the UAE has initiated multiple legislative reforms, among the biggest in the country’s history, as part of its commitment to move forward over the next 50 years building on the correct foundations to groom a competitive and efficient society .

One such law, which took effect on February 2, 2022, saw the introduction of longer maternity leave, approved part-time work, job sharing and work permits for 15-year-olds, marking a long overdue rethink of workplace rules in the UAE.

Under the new labour law shake-up, employers can now offer those aged 15-18 part-time paid work,  as well as valuable experience in the workplace.

This is great news for several reasons; employment teaches teenagers early on lessons on responsibility, accountability, good work habits, interpersonal skills and organisational abilities.

The employment of juveniles comes with a list of protective measures to ensure that they are not exposed to any risks or inappropriate work conditions.

Article 5 of Federal Decree-Law No 33 of 2021 on the Regulation of Labour Relations covers the topic of ‘Employment of Juveniles’ and lists specific conditions to be fulfilled when employers recruit workers aged between 15 and 18 years. They specify that work hours do not exceed six hours a day and are interspersed with one or more breaks; juveniles must not be employed on any hazardous or hard work or for any work that is by nature detrimental to health, safety or morals; that they do not work between 7pm and 7am; and that they should not be asked to work overtime.

When I was growing up, one of the most frustrating things about being a teenager was the fact that I couldn’t learn about what it would be like to have a job, interact with other people away from either home or school, expand my knowledge of life ‘in the real world’, because I was not allowed to seek full or part-time work under the then labour law, which was introduced in the early 1980s. Instead, I had to hope that the advice and information I was given by my family and teachers was going to be helpful. While some of it was, a lot of it was subjective, and didn’t relate to me as an individual. How could I even begin to think about what career I should follow if I had no idea what actually being in a working environment might contribute to my decision making?

The far-reaching repercussions of the new labour law are still being assessed and appraised for the long-term benefits they bring to both employee and employer – but for me personally, some of the benefits are obvious right now.

Working allows teenagers to realise how capable they are, building confidence and self-reliance in the process. This can help teens feel more independent and have the confidence to further their development with a sense of responsibility. The benefits of having a job is also that it’s a good way to build character, as it gives youngsters an insight into the hard work it takes to earn money, build their independence and develop their people skills.

As a working mother, it is a huge relief to me that my own girls will be able to enter the job market, albeit on a part-time basis, in their mid-teens, enabling them to experience the highs (and perhaps lows) of a workplace society, gaining invaluable familiarity with the way being in work can open up a whole new range of possibilities for them, something which I believe could have made a difference to me as I passed through my impressionable years.

Furthermore, the new laws have also made some positive changes to maternity leave in the country. According to Article 30 of the New Employment Law, a female worker is entitled to a maternity leave of 60 days — the first 45 days with full pay, and the next 15 days with half pay — increasing the maternity leave period to 105 days for female workers with an option to extend by an additional 30 days without pay, and granting an additional 15 days for solo mothers, and for other purposes. This marks an increase of about 30 per cent from previous rules.

Additionally, one of the most significant changes is that employees who have lost or left their jobs will have 180 days before their residency visa expires — up from only 30 days previously. Under the previous rules, it was feasible that some employers could misuse a ‘non-compete’ clause, which meant old law, an employee who quits one job had to leave the country and re-enter before being able to take up a new job.

The UAE’s revised labour law is a very welcome and progressive reform of legislation. The flexibility and freedoms it offers to workers across various sectors of society are a demonstration of the leadership’s forward-thinking and attentiveness to fairness and equality, as well as attention to detail. Under the new legislation, teenagers will become part of a generation of sensible and hardworking adults, the key driving force behind a more prosperous, and sustainable future.


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