The UAE is very much a land of opportunities for skilled professionals who come to advance their career, enjoy a higher standard of living and earn a tax-free salary.
The UAE Labour Law outlines information on employee entitlements, employment contracts and disciplinary rules. The law is employer friendly, but it also clearly outlines employee rights. You can download a copy of the document from the Ministry of Labour website. The document has not been fully updated for some time but amendments and additions are often posted on the site.
If you find yourself in the situation where you have not been paid (including women on maternity leave), you can file a case with the UAE Labour Department which will take the necessary action. You could also get a lawyer to deal with the claim on your behalf. Although lawyers are expensive in the UAE, the employer will have to bear the cost if the case is settled in your favour.
If you decide to leave a company before the end of your contract you will require permission from your existing employer in the form of an NOC (No Objection Certificate). Your employer will also need to cancel your residence visa. Before January 2016, anyone working in the private sector who breaks their contract could face a six month ban from working for any other company in the UAE. This has now been lifted as long as you have the company’s consent to leave. If you have been in a role for less than six months, however, you could still face a ban.
Anyone leaving the country or their job permanently without informing their employer will be classed as ‘absconding’, and any applications from a new employer for a residence visa and labour card will be refused. Also, if you leave the country or are unaccountable for seven days in a row or 20 days in total, your company can terminate your employment contract without awarding you gratuity pay or any outstanding benefits.
If the company you work for closes, you are still entitled to outstanding holiday pay and gratuity, but you'll need an attested certificate of closure before you can transfer your visa. If you are made redundant, you have a standard 30 day grace period within which to leave the country before incurring any fines for overstaying your visa; if you have a good relationship with your company, you should have room to negotiate the terms under which you are leaving.
Download a copy of the UAE Labour Law from the Ministry of Labour website. www.mol.gov.ae
Once you've found a job you have more paperwork to settle, but your new employer's PRO should take care of essentials such as your permit to work.
Employees working outside a free zone will receive an electronic labour card, processed by the Ministry of Labour. If you work in a free zone, however, you will receive a free zone ID, which is processed by the free zone authority and can be ready in as little as 24 hours. Both cards feature your photo and details of your employer. The labour card costs Dhs.1,000 (paid for by your company) and is valid for as long as your residence visa is. A free zone ID is valid for either one, two or three years.
Your labour card/free zone ID will be processed at the same time as your residence visa, and you will need to sign your labour contract before it is issued. This contract is printed in both Arabic and English.
If you are sponsored by your husband or wife on a family visa, you can still legally work. Your employer will simply need to apply for your labour card; you will need an NOC from your sponsor as well as your passport with residence visa, your sponsor’s passport and your attested education certificates. Non-GCC nationals who are above 18 years of age can now enter the UAE on a short-term work permit which is valid for 60 days; these can be extended/renewed up to six times (subject to a fee and bank guarantee).
Once you have accepted a job offer you will be asked to sign an employment contract.
Your employment contract should list the starting date, type of employment, location, terms and conditions, duration and the salary of your new job. This is a legally binding agreement that should be written in both Arabic and English. There is often confusion over the offer letter and the contract. An offer letter should give details of the terms of the job you are being offered, such as salary, leave, hours and other benefits; if you accept the terms of this offer, it becomes a legally binding contract. An employment contract can be terminated if both parties agree, provided that the employee’s written consent is given; the employer will then need to cancel your residence visa.
Working hours differ dramatically between companies and the maximum number of hours permitted per week according to UAE Labour Law is 48, although some industries, such as hospitality and retail, have longer stipulated hours. Friday is the Islamic holy day and therefore a day off for offices and schools.
Annual holiday starts at one calendar month per year, roughly 22 working days. Public holidays are set by the government, while the timing of religious holidays depends on the sighting of the moon.
You can check and print your labour contract and labour card online on the Ministry of Labour's website (mol.gov.ae).