Nearly 50 cases of employers not giving outdoor workers their statutory midday break have been uncovered this summer, officials have said.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said it is vital for outdoor workers' health that employers provide the time off between 12.30pm and 3pm – when temperatures can soar well into the 40°Cs.
Ministry officials said they discovered 47 cases of employers not meeting this entitlement through on-the-spot inspections between June 15 – this year's starting date for the scheme – and the end of July.
The vast majority of employers were found to have complied with the law, the ministry said.
“The purpose is to prevent heat-related illnesses and protect the rights of workers,” the ministry told The National.
“The initiative contributed to enhancing the work environment by preventing workers from working outdoors in the summer peak times, to reduce workers' injuries.”
Introduced in 2004, the midday break initiative will remain in effect until September 15 this year.
Companies caught breaking the rules will face fines of Dh5,000 ($1,360) per worker, reaching a maximum of Dh50,000.
Last year, the ministry said it conducted 55,192 inspection visits across the country, with 99 per cent compliance.
It carried out 17,000 awareness visits to companies in the first six months of the year. It also held workshops and distributed brochures to companies and labour accommodation camps.
“Over the past years, we have seen impressive compliance rates of commitment,” the ministry said.
“Companies are more aware of the importance of the midday break and its effective role in protecting workers from the hazards of direct exposure to sunlight or working in open spaces around noon.”
Included in the strict guidelines for employers to follow are that they must provide employees with a shaded place to rest during their break and daily working hours – for morning, evening or both shifts – should not exceed eight hours.
If a member of staff works for longer than eight hours, it will be considered paid overtime.
Some jobs where such breaks are not possible are exempt from the regulations.
These include workers carrying out important repairs or work that involves disruption to utilities, including water and electricity supply.
In such instances, employers are required to provide sufficient cold drinking water for staff, approved foods and ensure first-aid provisions are in place.
The employer must also provide shaded areas for workers during their breaks.
The ministry urged members of the public to report any breaches of the midday break policy through its call centre at 600 590 000, which is available in a number of languages.
Violations can also be reported on ministry’s mobile phone application.