UAE: Can employer cancel your annual leave?

KT reader asks what employees' rights are in such cases


Ashish Mehta

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Published: Sun 7 Jan 2024, 8:16 AM

Last updated: Sun 7 Jan 2024, 10:42 PM

Question: I work in a mainland company in the UAE. What should I do if my approved annual vacation is cancelled without informing me? What are my rights in this regard?

Answer: It is assumed that your employment is subject to the provisions of the UAE’s Federal Decree-Law No. (33) of 2021 on the Regulation of Employment Relations and the Cabinet Resolution No (1) of 2022 on the Executive Regulations of Federal Decree Law No (33/2021) on the Regulation of Employment Relations.

It may be noted that your employer may not cancel your annual leave unilaterally. Your employer may determine the dates of your annual leave, in consideration of factors like work requirements and rotation of leave among employees.

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However, that should be done in agreement with you. Furthermore, once the leave dates are determined, your employer must notify you of your annual leave days, at least 1 month prior to the commencement of the same. This is in accordance with the provisions of clause 4 of Article (29) of the Employment Law, which reads as follows:

“The employee shall use his leave in the year of entitlement. The employer may fix the dates of leave according to the work requirements and in agreement with the employee, or rotate leaves among employees for the smooth progress of work, and shall notify the employee of the date of his leave at least 1 month before the same.”

If you are unable to avail of annual leave in a year, you may either seek to carry forward the leave entitlement to the next year or seek leave pay in lieu of that. The provisions of clause (8) and clause (9) of Article (29) of the Employment Law may be referred to in this regard which state that:

“8. The employer may not prevent the employee from benefiting from his annual leave accrued for more than two years, unless the employee wishes to carry it forward or receive a cash allowance for it, in accordance with the regulations in force at the establishment and the Implementing Regulation hereof.”

“9. The employee shall be entitled to a wage for the accrued leave days if he quits the work before using them, regardless of the leave duration, with respect to the period for which he did not obtain his leave. He shall also be entitled to receive leave wage for parts of the year in proportion to the period he spent in work and it shall be calculated according to the basic wage.”

Therefore, as to the first part of your question, if your employer cancels your pre-approved leave without informing you, then you should first request your employer to revoke such cancellation. However, if such revocation is not possible due to exigencies at work, then you should request your employer to allow you to carry forward the entire leave entitlement to the next year or give you a cash payment in lieu of such leave entitlement. The cash payment in lieu of such leave entitlement shall be in proportion to the number of days of leave for which you shall be working and shall be calculated in accordance with your basic salary.

As to the second part of your question, note that you have the right to carry forward the entire leave entitlement of the current year to the next year, or seek cash payment for the entire period, because the leave entitlement in the current year is being cancelled by your employer unilaterally, and is not waived by you.

Note that if you voluntarily do not avail your annual leave entitlement in the current year, then you may be allowed to carry forward only 50 per cent of your annual leave entitlements in the current year to the next year, and upon agreement with your employer. This follows clause 1 of Article (19) of the Executive Regulations, which reads as follows:

“Subject to the provisions of paragraphs (8) and (9), Article 29, of the Decree-law:

1. A worker may carry over no more than half of his annual leave to the next year or agree with his employer to be paid in lieu thereof based on his Wage received at the time of leave entitlement.”

Thus, it would also be prudent on your part to inform your employer that your leave in the current year is being cancelled by your employer and not waived by you voluntarily, and accordingly you may reserve your rights with respect to your annual leave entitlements.

If your employer still deprives you of your rights as an employee in violation of the applicable laws, then you may approach the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation to report the matter.

Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: Readers may e-mail their questions to: or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.


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