UAE labour reform will limit difference between public and private sectors, says minister

Legal changes from February will further bring sectors into line

Dr Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation announced the changes to employment law. Abdel Hadi Ramahi / Reuters
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A new labour law will largely eliminate the workplace differences between public and private sectors when it comes into effect in February, a minister said.

Dr Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said the goal was to ensure the two sectors were equal when it came to entitlements.

“This law limits the differences between both sectors in a way that will boost our goals of establishing an integrated, sustainable and efficient and more attractive work environment,” he said at a briefing on Monday.

“And this law aims to eliminate differences between both sectors that would have been considered to be discriminatory.”

Last month, the government set out labour changes that it said would protect the rights of employers and employees, to ensure more flexible working models for the post-coronavirus workplace.

In September, a major package of job reforms with a budget of Dh24 billion ($6.5bn) was unveiled to get 75,000 Emiratis into the private sector in five years. The vast majority of Emiratis work in government or semi-government jobs.

Dr Al Awar said bringing the public and private sectors closer together was crucial.

Government employees have historically received more annual leave and public sector holidays.

Even before the changes in February, a government worker largely gets the same entitlement – about 30 annual leave days each year, plus public holidays – as someone working in a private business.

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Maternity and paternity leave – 60 days and five days respectively – are largely now aligned.

Many of the changes make it easier for people to change jobs, while providing protection for employers in the private sector, who might have spent thousands of dirhams on recruiting staff from abroad.

Employers may not force workers to leave the country after the end of the work relationship or the termination of a work contract. Instead workers will be allowed to move to another employer and there are plans to allow for up to 180 days to find a job without overstaying one's visa.

The new rules also mean employment contracts of indefinite duration will no longer be permitted.

Instead, fixed-term contracts of no more than three years will be introduced. These can be renewed several times with the agreement of the two parties.

Updated: December 14, 2021, 8:34 AM