'Are pregnant employees protected under the new UAE labour law?'

Female workers are entitled to 60 days of maternity leave and employers cannot terminate contracts because a woman is expecting a baby

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I recently found out that I am pregnant but haven’t told my employer yet. In the past, my company has forced pregnant employees to resign and terminated the services of others without good reason.

I really need this job and plan to return after I have given birth. Can I take maternity leave without losing my job and is there a rule to stop my company from terminating my contract after they learn that I am having a baby? CK, Abu Dhabi

Firstly, congratulations on your pregnancy.

It has never been acceptable to terminate an employee's contract due to pregnancy but this has been clarified in the new labour law, which came into effect on February 2.

Article 30, point 8 of the law, states: “It is not permissible to terminate the service of the female worker or notify her of the same because of the pregnancy, having a maternity leave or her absence from work in accordance with the provisions of this Article.”

This makes it very clear that no employer can terminate a female employee's contract due to pregnancy.

The new labour law also specifies that women are entitled to 60 days of maternity leave, with the first 45 days at full pay and the next 15 at half pay.

There is also provision for an absence of up to another 45 days in the event that either the mother or child is unwell, but it must be supported by a medical certificate.

It should be also noted that this additional time off can be unpaid and is not included as part of the period of service, which means that it is exempt from the calculation of days worked for the end-of-service gratuity.

In addition, point 9 of Article 30 says: “After returning from maternity leave and for a period of not more than (6) six months from the date of delivery, the female worker shall be entitled to one or two breaks per day to breastfeed her child, provided that the two breaks do not exceed an hour.”

Employers may also offer further leave at their discretion.

New UAE labour laws come into effect

New UAE labour laws come into effect

I have been working in the UAE for the past seven years but, unfortunately, I had an accident on the job that caused a huge loss to the company and they decided to terminate my contract.

I have 15 months left to pay off a bank loan, with Dh35,000 ($9,530) outstanding. I don’t have any cash to settle the amount and am unsure about what to do.

My wife is also on my visa, as I sponsored her residency. Will her visa be cancelled along with mine, even though she works for a different company? KA, Dubai

It is understood that the contract termination took place before the new labour law came into effect earlier this month and the termination was in accordance with the previous law under Article 120 of Federal Law No 8 of 1980.

This states: “The employer may dismiss the worker without prior notice in any of the following cases … should the worker commit an error resulting in colossal material losses to the employer, provided that the Labour Department is notified of the incident within 48 hours of the knowledge of the occurrence thereof.”

Despite his job loss, KA is still liable for the loan. He will need to notify the bank that he is unable to make repayments until he finds new employment; and he should request a payment holiday.

The bank is not obliged to agree to this but is more likely to be amenable if it is made aware of the situation, rather than having payments missed without reason.

If there is no likelihood of obtaining a new job quickly and KA is unable to meet the repayments, there is an option to declare personal insolvency, or bankruptcy.

Insolvency Law No 19 of 2019 is aimed at providing protection to people in financial distress. However, there are consequences, such as being unable to obtain credit for at least three years and action must be taken within 50 business days of a repayment that is due.

KA will need to contact the court in the emirate where his visa was issued to request an application for insolvency. The court will appoint experts to assist and assess the case and they must comply within specific time frames.

KA’s wife’s residency visa must be cancelled before his visa is cancelled. She can request that her employer sponsors her to continue working legally.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with more than 25 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only

Updated: June 23, 2023, 1:09 PM