Labor Legislation in the UAE

Pauline Familara
Pauline Familara
11 January 2024
Labor Legislation in the UAE

The modern labor legislation in the UAE reflects the realities of a country that has become an enticing oasis for foreign professionals of various qualifications, experiences, and backgrounds. When considering a permanent move to one of the most prosperous countries in the Middle East, it’s essential to study the laws regulating immigration and employment. Even better, seek assistance from professionals at Dynasty Business Adviser, a specialized company with years of experience assisting citizens from CIS countries with relocation to the UAE.

Key Provisions of the UAE Labor Code

Non-residents holding tourist or transit visas cannot work within the country. Violations of labor legislation will lead to unpleasant consequences for both the employer and the non-resident worker.

For a non-resident seeking a work visa to work in the UAE legally, the law provides a set timeframe for the following:

  • Job hunting.
  • Signing a contract with a company that offers a suitable vacancy.
  • Acquiring a resident visa and arranging a labor card.

Compliance is a crucial factor in building a safe society with a high standard of living. All foreigners who choose the UAE for permanent residency or work must adhere to the laws. A frivolous attitude towards rules and legal norms is not tolerated here. Foreigners must observe them at all stages of employment and life in the country.

Documentary Procedures for Hiring a Foreigner for Work

The relationship between the employer company and the foreign specialist is formalized by an employment contract. It is executed as follows:

  • In duplicate.
  • In English and Arabic languages.
  • According to the form approved by the Ministry of Labor of the country.

The expatriate must undergo a medical examination after signing the employment contract and obtaining a work visa. A favorable verdict from the doctors provides grounds for obtaining a residence permit (residency visa) and a labor card.

Early termination of the contract by the company can lead to severe consequences for the migrant. Information about this will be recorded in the central database of the UAE Ministry of Labor, and the foreign worker may be deprived of the right to employment for six months.

The same consequences arise when the contract is terminated at the employee’s initiative. Many individuals from CIS countries sign contracts with the first company they come across in Dubai that hires them. They think that they will terminate the contract later when something better comes along. However, such an attitude towards employment is not welcomed in the country. The employee loses the right to work for 6 months upon contract termination.

What Do You Need to Know about the Residency Visa?

The document gives the expatriate the right to the following:

  1. Legal residence, entry, and exit at their discretion.
  2. Renting real estate.
  3. Purchasing personal property (such as a car).

The residency visa for a foreign worker is issued for 2 or 3 years. However, it may be prematurely terminated if the employment contract with the employer is terminated early or if the individual leaves the country for more than 6 months.

There is also a pleasant aspect. Quite often, the companies hiring the staff cover the expenses for the foreign specialist’s travel to the UAE, the documentary processing of the work visa, the contract with the employer, and the card.

Regarding the Probation Period

For an expatriate with a work visa, the probation period can last up to 6 months. The law includes a provision whereby employees who fail to fulfill their job responsibilities can be dismissed during the probation period without notice and deported from the country within 24 hours. Inadequate qualifications and professional skills of the migrant are often the reasons for terminating contracts with foreign specialists.

About Working Hours and Days Off

The duration of a working day and week in the country is 8 hours and 48 hours, respectively. In the fields of services, trade, and public catering, a 9-hour working day can be established.

Staff are entitled to one day off per week, usually granted on Friday. Government employees and staff of some large foreign companies enjoy two days off (Friday and Saturday).

Employees are entitled to a 125% increase on their regular hourly rate for overtime work and jobs from 9 PM to 4 AM — 150%. The employer can substitute this with an additional day off.

Minimum Wage and Currency of Wage Payment

In the UAE legislation, there is no established minimum wage. On the one hand, this broadens the autonomy of companies in matters of labor remuneration. On the other hand, it allows for setting relatively low hourly rates for positions like drivers, domestic helpers, and unskilled service staff. These positions are usually filled by migrants from Southeast Asia and India, for whom even such wage levels are attractive.

For highly qualified specialists, in addition to the basic salary agreed upon in the work contract, companies often offer additional compensatory payments related to the following:

  • Covering housing, mobile communication, medical services, and children’s education.
  • Representation, business travel, and transportation expenses.
  • Additional allowances for social services, leisure, and vacation.

Since the incomes of individuals, including foreign workers, are not taxed, such payments have a significant motivational potential. They can be paid in dirhams or any other currency agreed upon by the parties in the contract.

How Does UAE Labor Legislation Protect the Rights of Employees?

Despite the absence of a legally established minimum wage, the legislation provides that the wage amount should cover a person’s basic needs. Labor law establishes the following:

  • Fixed the working day and week.
  • Allowances for working night shifts and overtime.
  • Penalties for the untimely payment of staff salaries.
  • Mandatory medical insurance for the employee (in Dubai), their spouse, and three children under 18 years old (in Abu Dhabi).
  • End-of-service benefits if an employee has worked in a single company for at least two years.

The legislation norms harmonize the relationship between the employer and the hired employee, considering the interests of both parties and shape high living standards in the country. However, company managers can establish the size and composition of compensatory payments to personnel based on their interest in collaborating with each candidate.

What Should Immigrants Know When Moving to the UAE?

While this publication provides some answers to this question, it does not constitute legal advice. When seeking employment in the UAE for relocation, it’s best to seek support from professionals at Dynasty Business Adviser. Professional assistance throughout all relocation stages minimizes time and financial losses and instills confidence. Call us or submit an inquiry on our website.

  • Swan, M. (26 April 2012). Arabic school aims to boost the popularity of the language. The National, p. 6.

  • "United Arab Emirates International Religious Freedom Report, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2009)". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009.

  • Whitson, Sarah Leah (24 March 2007). "UAE: Draft Labor Law Violates International Standards". Human Rights Watch.

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