UAE: One year sabbatical entrepreneurial leave 'much needed' for Emiratis

The initiative was first announced in July this year as a means of allowing nationals to start their own entrepreneurial journeys while retaining government jobs


Lamya Tawfik

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Published: Wed 28 Dec 2022, 10:33 PM

Last updated: Wed 28 Dec 2022, 11:18 PM

Emiratis working in both the private and government sector praised the government’s initiative, which was announced on Tuesday, to offer UAE citizens working in the government sector a year-long sabbatical with half pay so that they may start their own business ventures. The initiative will be implemented from Jan 2, 2023.

“This is a great opportunity for young Emiratis. I’ve been encouraging my husband to start his own business, but of course there’s the fear of failing, and the fear of losing the job. If you start a project and you fail, you'd spend months before finding another job,” said Ahlam Al Marzooqi, Group Emiratisation Manager, Galadari Brothers.

“If you have a year, then you can put all your efforts into it. Even if it’s a small home business or a café, in a year you can really have your business running, and you can return to work and just monitor it after that,” she said.

Without this flexibility, many people would prefer to spend time with their families after working hours as opposed to working on a business venture, she explained – the fact that one will not be working for a year is not a waste of time, but rather an investment in one’s own self.

“You will learn how to work on your own business; you’ll learn by doing things by yourself. You will build connections and learn skills, so you’ll come back to the office even stronger,” she said.

The initiative, according to Mohammed Abdulrahman, who has been working in the government sector for more than 30 years, will help Emiratis launch a pilot project for their future, especially after retirement. “You could take time to think and to build your future. You somehow test how you would succeed if you were to launch your own business,” he said.

He added that it’s a great initiative, and a fantastic opportunity for anyone who has a business idea. “If someone has an idea without having a job, then it’s hard to start without taking the risk, or getting a loan to start the business without a backup plan or another source of income,” he said, adding that this is one of the reasons businesses fail. “You don’t have anything to support your needs and then the business drowns,” he said.

On the other hand, if one is working in a job and wants to start a business, the risk of leaving the job to start a business is also high, especially if one has a family, he explained. “The government is giving this opportunity to everyone [who wants] to start their own business, and maintain their roles and half of their salary.

It’s a good initiative to test their idea, their project, and then they have something to fall back on if it doesn’t work,” he said adding that if it works it’s a great retirement plan.

He also said that with more people starting business ventures, the field of employment will increase as new businesses create new job opportunities. “It really is a win-win situation for everyone. I think it will be successful and hopefully many people will take advantage of this initiative,” he said.

Shouq Al Marzooqi, a government employee for 15 years, said that she would love to develop herself and to serve her country by starting a new project, but that time isn’t on her side because of her working hours in the office. “I would love to have the flexibility to have time to work on my project without losing my current job,” she said.

Echoing her sentiments, Alia Mohammed, who works in the private sector, said that it’s a great initiative for employees looking to start their own business, because it provides them with job security. “It’s an opportunity to explore the world of entrepreneurship with the support of the government and organisations,” she said.

The initiative was first announced in July this year by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as a means to allow Emiratis to start their own entrepreneurial journeys while retaining government jobs.

According to WAM, it is one of the "Projects of the 50" initiatives and the first of its kind in the world. Emiratis will get half their salaries during this period, and T=the leave will be approved by the head of the federal authority the employee works for, and can be combined with unpaid leave and annual leave.

The UAE national employees of the federal government can check the conditions and requirements for obtaining an entrepreneurship leave for self-employment through the website of the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources,


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