UAE unifies public, private work systems: 7 labour rules to know

Citizens, residents can obtain flexible, temporary or part-time work when applying in the federal entities and private companies


Sherouk Zakaria

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Photo: File

Published: Mon 13 Dec 2021, 5:59 PM

Last updated: Mon 13 Dec 2021, 6:16 PM

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation announced on Monday general regulations that will unify the working systems of the federal government and private sectors.

Starting February 2, 2022, employees of federal entities and private companies will obtain the same leaves and end-of-service benefits and have the option to opt for flexible, part-time and temporary work models.

Under the new Federal Decree Law no. 47 of 2021, only limited contracts will be adopted in the UAE's labour market. Employees across the country will also be protected under anti-discrimination provisions prohibiting employers from recruiting based on race, colour, gender, religion, nationality, social origin, or disability.

The new labour regulations, approved by UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, are part of the UAE's largest legislative reforms that saw the amendment of 40 laws as the country kicks off its new journey towards the next five decades.

During a media briefing, Dr Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said the unifying general regulations aim to build a flexible and competitive labour market that grants the same rights to employees in both sectors and attracts talents from all over the world.

He stated that the unifying general regulations fill the gap between the public and private sectors.

"Through unifying both sectors, we aspire to establish an integrated, sustainable and efficient work environment that meets the needs and aspirations of both employers and employees."

Last month, the ministry announced the new UAE labour law with significant reforms to increase the private sector's flexibility in the post-pandemic world. The new regulations unify the changes to federal government bodies and private companies.

Photo: File
Photo: File

Flexible, temporary and part-time jobs

Besides the full-time scheme, UAE citizens and residents can obtain flexible, temporary or part-time work when applying to federal entities and private companies.

Dr Al Awar said employees could combine more than one job model as long as the total working hours do not exceed the threshold of 48 hours a week outlined in the law.

He explained, “The work models grant flexibility to both employees and employers, under a legislative framework, to select the type of contract that best serves their work requirements and objectives.”

However, to avoid employee burnout or employers’ misuse of human resources, Dr Al Awar said the law places a threshold of an average of 144 hours in three weeks.

“This way, we ensure employee wellbeing while maintaining their flexibility to optimize their talents with different employers.”

The types of work schemes employers and employees can opt for based on their business interests, and requirements are:

Part-time work: The scheme allows employees to work for more than one employer for a specific number of hours or days either on-site or remotely in accordance with the contract.

Temporary work: Employees are hired on a project basis or for specific tasks. Contracts end with the project’s completion.

Flexible work: Contracts under this scheme enable employees to work on different days and times depending on the job conditions and requirements. Employees may choose their working hours.

Photo: File
Photo: File

Same leaves

Employees in federal government entities and private companies are entitled to annual, maternity, paternity, mourning and study leaves.

Annual leaves will be calculated differently for employees opting for temporary, part-time and flexible work contracts introduced in the new labour law.

Annual leaves: Full-time employees in the federal government and private companies are entitled to a 30-day annual leave every year. Once employees complete six months of employment, they are entitled to two paid days off for every month before completing the year.

Maternity leave: In both sectors, the maternity leave will be 60 days, including 45 days at full pay, with an additional 15 days at half pay.

Once back to work, new mothers are entitled to one hour a day for breastfeeding for six months from giving birth.

Female employees can choose to combine their maternity leave with any other approved holiday, and employers cannot terminate an employee for taking maternity leave.

Paternity leave: Men can claim a five-day paternity leave to be used consecutively or throughout the first six months of the baby’s birth.

Mourning leave: Employees are entitled five days off upon the death of a spouse and three days off upon the death of a direct family member.

Sick leave: Employees are entitled to at least 90 days of sick leave a year, including 15 paid days, 30 days at half pay, and the remaining unpaid.

Study leave: Employees enrolled in a UAE-accredited educational institution or university inside or outside the country are entitled to 10 days off a year for exams.

Photo: File
Photo: File

End-of-service benefits

Besides unifying employee gratuity in the federal government and the private sector, the new regulations enable employers to adopt additional gratuity schemes that enhance their competitiveness in the labour market and attract talents.

Dr Al Awar explained, “Employers can, for example, adopt a savings scheme that enables employees to invest in their gratuity from their joining date.”

He noted that the additional gratuity schemes are part of the goals behind the general regulations to provide employers with the flexibility to implement the initiatives that fit their business needs and interests and boost their competitiveness in the rapidly-growing labour market.

He added, “The new gratuity schemes present innovative ways to meet the aspirations of talents coming from all over the world and adapt to the modern workplace.”

From February 2, 2022, full-time private sector and federal government employees will be equally entitled to a gratuity of 21 days’ basic salary for each year of work for the first five years of employment.

Those who spend more than five years of service are entitled to a gratuity of 30 days’ salary for each year of work after the first five years, in addition to the 21 days’ basic pay for each year for the first five years.

The law will determine gratuity for employees working in the new temporary, flexible and part-time job models introduced last month.

Under the law, no gratuity is paid for employees who do not complete one year of employment.

Photo: File
Photo: File

Limited contracts

The new general regulations cancel the option of unlimited work contracts.

Federal government entities and private firms will have to adopt limited (fixed-term) contracts, which can be renewed once or several times for a specific period as agreed by both parties.

Unlimited contracts, currently in effect, will eventually be replaced.

The new labour law, announced last month, replaced unlimited contracts with limited contracts of a duration not exceeding three years for the private sector. The unifying general regulations apply this regulation to the federal government as well.

Photo: File
Photo: File

Working hours

Under the new regulations, federal government and private sector employees can work for a maximum of eight hours a day, 48 hours a week, with compensation for working overtime. The law regulates the timings when work is prohibited.

Employees are entitled to at least one paid day off, which can be increased at the company’s discretion.

While the UAE announced a new 4.5-day workweek to be applied in the federal government, the UAE’s Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation Dr Abdulrahman Al Awar stressed that the new labour law grants private companies the flexibility to choose the off days for employees.

He noted that some private companies across the UAE used the new workweek to make adjustments that serve their business interests and increase their competitiveness in the labour market.

“Since the announcement of the new workweek, we have seen several private companies setting their off days for employees. Some have announced 3-day weekends, while others announced flexible work-from-home options for Fridays.”

He added, “The new law aims to grant the private sector this flexibility, and the key goal behind the unifying general regulations is to fill the gap between the federal government and private sectors.”

Photo: File
Photo: File


Under the anti-discrimination provisions of the new regulations, employers are prohibited from hiring on the basis of race, colour, gender, religion, nationality, social origin, or disability.

Employers are also prohibited from discriminating when recruiting employees for the same duties.

However, rules and procedures that support Emiratisation efforts will not be considered discrimination.

Photo: File
Photo: File

Employment of juveniles

Public and private employers are prohibited from hiring teenagers under the age of 18.

Specific sectors can hire teenagers over 15 years under conditions outlined in the legislative regulations.

The labour law prohibits juveniles under 15 from working over six hours a day, with at least one-hour break in a manner that ensures youngsters do not work for consecutive four hours.

Juveniles can only work after obtaining written consent from their guardians and a medical fitness report.

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