New UAE labour law: What can employees do if they're overworked?

Some employees have reported working more than 12 hours a day without any time off

By Sherouk Zakaria

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Published: Fri 28 Jan 2022, 1:36 PM

Though the new workweek has been adopted across the UAE's public sector, some private sector employees have reported working overtime, as employers are yet to determine their days off.

The new labour law, which comes into effect on February 2, gives the private sector the flexibility to determine the employees’ weekends, as long as they have at least one day off per week. This is subject to increase as per the company’s discretion.

An employee at an auto market in Dubai, who requested to remain anonymous, told Khaleej Times that with the new workweek, the company’s employees ended up working with no days off as the employer is yet to determine the new weekend.

“Before the new workweek, we had Fridays off. Now, we do not have it off any more.”

The employee reported hesitance to make a complaint to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (Mohre) out of fear of losing their job.

Another employee at a restaurant near the Gold Souq in Dubai reported working from 9am to 10pm every day, including Friday, which was previously a day off.

“We are waiting for the company to adjust, but we are unclear when.” The employee is entitled to one day off as per the signed contract.

“We have families, and working for long hours are impacting our family time and overall well-being,” the employee said.

What does the new law say about working overtime?

The new labour law grants employees in the private sector at least one day off every week. Employees are to work a maximum of eight hours a day or 48 hours a week.

Article 19 states that the maximum hours of overtime per day is two hours in one day.

Should the nature of the job require more than two hours overtime, employees must receive an overtime wage equivalent to regular hour pay with a 25 per cent increase.

If conditions required employees to work overtime between 10pm and 4am, they are entitled to an overtime wage equivalent to regular hour pay with a 50 per cent increase. People on a shift basis are exempted from this rule.

If workers were asked to work on a day off, they must receive a one-day leave or an overtime wage equivalent to the regular day pay with a 50 per cent increase. Employees are not supposed to work without two consecutive days off.

What to do if my employer violates my rights?

Mohamed Gamal Tawfik, a legal advisor at Kaden Boriss Legal Consulting, said employees can first try to demand their dues from their employers as per the law and settle the issue amicably.

If employers do not respond, employees are to issue a complaint at Mohre without terminating the contract.

Employees have the option to file a joint complaint collectively.

How do I prove I am working overtime?

Tawfik said the overtime hours must be calculated, along with proof of an explicit and direct instruction from the employer to work after official working hours or during holidays.

Will I be at risk of losing my job?

No. Article 47 clearly states that it is illegal for employers to terminate an employee for filing a valid complaint to the ministry.

If employees believe they have been dismissed illegally, they can complain to ministry, which will try to solve the issue amicably. If an amicable settlement is not reached, the case will be referred to the respective court.

If arbitrary dismissal is proven, the court will order the employer to pay a compensation to the employee.


The court will assess the value of compensation based on the type of work, the extent of damage incurred to the employee and the duration of employment.

In all cases, the amount of compensation must not exceed the wage of the employee for a period of three months, calculated on the basis of the last wage the worker is entitled to.

In addition to compensation, employees can claim their gratuity, notice period dues or any other unpaid dues.

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