DIFC employees 'confident of receiving gratuity' after signing up for Dews savings plan

The UAE's first workplace retirement savings scheme could be a 'viable blueprint' for the region, new study finds

DUBAI, UAE. February 05, 2014 - Stock photograph of the DIFC Gate in Dubai, February 05, 2014.  (Photo by: Sarah Dea/The National, Story by: STANDALONE, Business Stock)
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More than seven in 10 employees working in the Dubai International Financial Centre are confident of receiving their gratuity payment since enrolling in the DIFC Employee Workplace Savings plan, or Dews, according to a new survey.

Commissioned by Zurich Workplace Solutions, Equiom and Mercer and carried out by market research consultancy Insight Discovery, the study interviewed 1,222 people who work in Dubai’s financial free zone and employees across the rest of the UAE to gauge support for workplace savings reforms.

The confidence in the Dews plan is “notable when comparing the responses of employees in the DIFC with the responses of employees who work elsewhere”, the study said.

“Only 40 per cent of UAE respondents outside the DIFC said they were aware of how their gratuity works and what it means for them. Additionally, around 30 per cent of respondents across the UAE have either only a basic level of awareness about their gratuity or are completely unaware of their gratuity.”

The DIFC was the first entity in the UAE to set up a new gratuity system – a defined end-of-service benefit that all employed residents are entitled to after completing at least one year of service – when it introduced the Dews plan in February last year. The free zone’s employers are required to make monthly contributions of 5.83 per cent or 8.33 per cent of an employee’s wage, depending on their length of service, to a fund administered by a trust.

Employees can also choose to make voluntary contributions to the Dews plan.

Equiom is the master trustee of the Dews programme, Zurich Workplace Solutions the plan administrator and global consultancy Mercer the investment adviser.

“[Dews] presents a viable, and now tried and tested, blueprint for the rest of the UAE – and possibly even the region – to build a culture of long-term financial planning supported by regulated solutions that effectively enable discipline and consistency,” said Chris Cain, client services director for the Middle East at Equiom.

In March, the DIFC said 19,182 employees from 1,187 companies had registered with the Dews plan, which had more than $127 million worth of assets under management as of February 1.

In April, Axa Green Crescent Insurance Company unveiled a workplace savings plan to help UAE employees save for their retirement.

The Employee Secure Saver plan helps companies provide employees with a savings vehicle similar to those available globally, the insurer said at that the time.

The Zurich, Equiom and Mercer survey found that there was a considerable savings gap between non-Emirati and Emirati employees in the UAE, with 45 per cent of non-Emirati respondents saying that they have either no means to maintain a decent standard of living in their retirement or plan to continue working beyond retirement age.

Sixty-one per cent of non-Emirati respondents said they had no long-term savings at all, it said.

“The success of Dews will also hopefully help more expats become aware of the need for planning to start to put in place relevant and suitable financial strategies to support them in retirement, triggered by the benefits of greater certainty in employee-related savings,” said Reena Vivek, senior executive officer at Zurich Workplace Solutions.

A 2020 UAE Security and Savings survey by Mercer also found that a lack of financial awareness was an issue among respondents.

“The opinions of DIFC employees familiar with Dews demonstrates the importance of the scheme in focusing individual employees on the need to save for their future by offering flexible and attractive investment options able to meet the requirements of individual employees and their savings goals,” said Claudia Maldonado, DC solutions leader at Mercer Middle East.