Table of Contents

Rights and Obligations at Work

  1. Wage
  2. Hours at Work
  3. Health and Safety
  4. Labor Inspection


Wages are defined by the UAE Labor Law as:

"All payments made to the worker on a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, piece work, or production, or commission basis, in return for the work he performs under the contract of employment, whether such payments are made in cash or in kind. Remuneration shall include the cost of living allowance. It shall also include any grant given to the worker as a reward for his honesty or efficiency if such amounts are provided for in the contract of employment or in the internal regulations of the establishment or have been granted by custom or common practice to such an extent that the workers of the establishment regard them as part of their remuneration and not as donations."

The basic wage is an employee's wage excluding all allowances, whilst total wage on the other hand, is the employee's wage inclusive of all allowances such as accommodation and travel allowances.

End-of-service gratuity is determined on the basis of an employee's last basic wage received as opposed to the employee's total wage received.

No minimum wage has been prescribed by law to date. Wages in the private sector depend exclusively on employment contracts concluded individually, as a function of the situation in the labor market.

Wages may be paid on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis. The parties may mutually agree on the manner in which wages are paid or remitted.

Although the Law stipulates that wages should be paid in the national currency, in practice, wages may be paid in any currency and the parties may agree on the actual currency paid.

There exist no legal restrictions on repatriation or transfer of monies.

In case of a dispute, an employer will be required to prove that the employee has been paid his wages along with any applicable allowances, failing which there may be an assumption that the wages were not paid. Such evidence must be in writing. However, the employee can prove the non-payment of wages by any means provided for in the UAE Federal Law of Evidence. Therefore, it is necessary for the employer to maintain adequate records and books recording the payment of wages and allowances.

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Hours at Work

The maximum prescribed working hours for an adult employee is eight hours per day or forty-eight hours per week. However, the working hours may be increased to nine hours per day in the case of persons employed in trades, hotels, cafeterias, and as guards. Persons who hold executive/administration positions however are expected to work long hours without overtime pay.

The time traveling to and from work is not included in the calculation of working hours.

Employees may not work for more than five consecutive hours per day without breaks for rest, meals and prayer. However, the resting and the meal breaks are not included in calculating working hours. In factories, where people work day and night shifts or jobs where, for technical and economical reasons, continued attendance is required, the Ministry specifies the manner in which employees may take intervals for rest, prayer and meals.

However, the UAE Labour provides for stringent rules and restrictions on night employment of women.

In fact, the UAE is a member of the International Labour Organization since 1972. It has ratified 9 Conventions since then, including Convention No. 89 of 1948 in respect of Night Work for Women, ratified by the UAE on 27/5/1982

Special protective measures for women in the ILO convention and in the UAE Labour Law may be broadly categorized into two types: those aimed at protecting women's reproductive and maternal capacity, and those aimed at protecting women generally because of their sex or gender, based on stereotypical perceptions about their capabilities and appropriate role in society.

The duration of minimum compulsory night rest for women was set out in Article 2 of Convention No. 89 to signify a period of at least 11 consecutive hours, including an interval prescribed by the competent authority of at least seven consecutive hours falling between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
In a number of countries, mostly those having ratified one of the Conventions under review, including the UAE, the duration of the night period with reference to employment of women reflects the standard prescribed in the Conventions, i.e. at least 11 hours of night rest including the interval between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. according to the terms of Convention No. 89. For instance, in the United Arab Emirates, pursuant to Art. 27 of the UAE Labour Law, night work is prohibited during a period of not less than 11 consecutive hours, including a longer nine-hour interval from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Several countries among those having accepted the Convention under review appear to prohibit night work of women in all branches of economic activity rather than merely in industry. This is the case, in the United Arab Emirates.

However, the prohibition of night work does not apply in any case of force majeure, or, in the terms of Article 4(a) of Convention No. 89, when in an industrial undertaking there occurs an interruption of work which it was impossible to foresee, and which is not of a recurring character (Art. 28 of UAE Labor Law).

Article 4(b) of the Convention allows for night employment of women where the work has to do with raw materials or materials in course of treatment which are subject to rapid deterioration, and if such night work is necessary to preserve the said materials from certain loss. In this respect , in the United Arab Emirates, pursuant to Ministerial Order No. 46/1 of 1980 women's night work is permitted where it is intended to avoid an imminent loss of fragile materials, or to prevent a serious accident, or to repair the consequences of such an accident, on condition that the competent authorities are promptly notified of the emergency situation and of the time necessary to complete the work.

Also according to Article 8 of Convention No. 89, women holding responsible positions of managerial or technical character or employed in health and welfare services, who are not ordinarily engaged in manual work are exempted from any prohibition or restriction on night work. This is the case in the United Arab Emirates under Art. 28 of the Labor Law

The same applies to women employed in health and welfare services who are not ordinarily engaged in manual work.

If the nature of the job requires an employee to work overtime, the employee is entitled to overtime pay which is equivalent to the wage paid during ordinary working hours plus an additional amount of not less than 25% of the wage for the over time period. However, if the employee's overtime falls between the hours of 9.00pm and 4.00am( where night work is allowed), she will be entitled to overtime pay which is equivalent to the salary payable during normal working hours plus an increase of not less than 50% of her wage for the overtime period worked.

If circumstances require the employee to work on a Friday, she is entitled to receive a rest day in lieu to be taken at a later date or be paid her basic wage plus an additional 50% (minimum) of that wage. However, employees cannot be asked to work two consecutive Fridays unless their wages are calculated on a daily basis.

In any case, overtime should not exceed two hours per day, unless it is necessary to prevent substantial loss, a serious accident or to remove traces of such an accident or reduce its effect.

However, the above provisions are not applicable to the following persons:
(1) Persons in senior positions, or in administrative supervisory roles, if such persons have similar authority over employees as the employer.
(2) Crews of naval ships and marine employees who enjoy special privileges because of the nature of their work. This does not include port employees engaged in loading and unloading and other related work.

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Health and Safety

The Law specifies certain provisions regarding employee safety and health care and requires the following measures and procedures to be adhered to:

1. Every employer should provide his employees with adequate preventive equipment and measures and suitable means of protection against injuries, occupational diseases, fire and hazards which may result from the use of machinery and other equipment in the workplace. The employer shall also apply all the other precautionary measures specified by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The employee in turn, must use the safety equipment and clothes given to her for this purpose. She shall also follow her employer's instructions which aim to protect her from danger.

2. Every employer shall display in a permanent and prominent place at the work site detailed instructions regarding the means of preventing fire and the means of protection of employees from hazards to which they may be exposed to during work. These instructions shall be in Arabic and if necessary another language understood by the employees.

3. Every employer shall make available a first aid kit or kits containing medicines, bandages and other first aid material as directed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

4. Every employer must ensure perfect cleanliness and ventilation in the workplace, and must provide adequate lighting and rest rooms, and suitable drinking water.

5. An employer must assign one or more physicians to examine thoroughly those of his employees who are exposed to the possibility of contracting one of the occupational diseases listed in the schedule attached to the Law. At least once every six months "at risk" employees should be examined and results recorded on their files.

6. The employer must provide his employees with the means of medical care to the standard determined by the Ministry in consultation with the Minister of Health.

7. The employer or his deputy must inform the employee upon recruitement, of the dangers of her job and the means of protection that she must take. He shall also display detailed written safety instructions at the workplace.

8. No employer, deputy, or any person with authority over employees shall bring or allow others to bring any kind of alcoholic drinks for consumption on work premises. He shall also prohibit any person to enter or remain in the establishment while intoxicated.

Every employer employing persons in remote areas not served by public transportation shall provide them at his own expense with suitable transportation, accommodation, drinking water, food, first aid services and means for entertainment and sports activities.

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Labor Inspection

The UAE is a member of the International Labor Organization since 1972. It has ratified 9 Conventions since then, including Convention No. 81 of 1947 in respect of Labor Inspection, ratified by the UAE on 27/5/1982.

According to UAE Labor laws, the Labor Inspection Department at the Ministry and the personnel employed therein may undertake labor inspections, and have been given the power to do so by the Law. The inspector however should carry the identification card issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and is entitled to enter premises for inspection. Employers and their agents should present the labor inspectors with all the necessary facilities and information to perform their duties and should consent to any summons to appear before them, or should send a delegate to appear on their behalf if they are required to do so.

A labor inspector is responsible for the following:
(1) Supervising the proper enforcement of the provisions of the Law, particularly terms of work, wages, on the job safety, health and the specific regulations concerning the employment of juveniles and women;
(2) Providing employers and employees with the information and technical guidance that will enable them to adopt the best means for the enforcement of the provisions of the Law.
(3) Informing the concerned authority of any loop-holes which the enforcement provisions fail to remedy and recommending any necessary steps.
(4) Recording incidents where the provisions of the Law and the regulations have been violated.

For the above purposes, a labor inspector has the right to do the following:
(1) Enter any establishment that is subject to the provisions of the Law at any time during the day or night without prior notice, provided that such entry is made during working hours.
(2) Conduct any test or investigation that may be necessary to ascertain the proper enforcement of the Law.
(3) Question employees or the employer, examine all records which have to be kept under the provision of the Law, take a sample or samples of materials used or handled in industrial activities, and ascertain that notices and pamphlets required to be displayed at the work site are in accordance with the provisions of the Law.

As for the technical aspects of the implementation, the Government has undertaken a substantial increase in the human and material means available to the labor inspection services, with a view to the correct application of Articles 6, 10 and 11 of the Convention and the launching of a certain number of studies on methods to promote occupational safety and health, and especially to improve the system of notification of occupational accidents, in conformity with Article 14.

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