UAE labour law: What relaxed visa rules mean for the job market

Employees who have left or lost their job will be under less pressure to jump at the first role offered

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New laws have shaken up the private sector work landscape in the UAE.

The amended labour regulations, which were first outlined by the government in November 2021 and came into effect on Feburary 2, 2022 provide options that were not available before and strengthen employees' rights.

One of the major changes under the new rules is that people will be able to live in the country for up to six months after leaving a job.

Shorter, fixed-term contracts will also be introduced for most private-sector employees and some residents will now have the option to condense their working week as long as the contracted hours are met.

This may spur some individuals to make the jump and look for a role that is better for them
Emily Roberts, Genie recruitment

Louise Vine, managing director at Inspire Selection recruitment agency in Dubai, said she is encouraged by the new law.

“When someone loses their job, they have six months to find a new one instead of only 30 days, so it offers more stability for their family,” she said.

“Also, when someone wants to quit because they really do not like their job, they now have six months to find another, so feel less pressured into accepting a job they do not want.

“It also gives them time to find a job that they're really happy with, at the right level and the right salary and so on.”

In her years as a recruiter, Ms Vine said she has come across people who have “accepted jobs out of desperation”, only to have a visa, which buys them time to find their ideal job.

She said this short-term employment is financially detrimental to the employer and creates an unstable work environment.

“Despite the law change, we don't see the great resignation phenomenon which has been reported in the US happening here,” said Ms Vine.

“The UAE is very different from the US and while this new law does allow people to walk away from their jobs more easily, the majority of people we come across are looking for work and are very keen to continue earning. Not many are in a position to spend six months with no pay due to the high cost of living.”

Emily Roberts, a consultant at Genie, a recruitment agency in Dubai, said the move will have a positive effect on workplace well-being and environments, as many job seekers can now spend time searching for the right opportunity.

“I believe this may spur some individuals to make the jump and look for a role that is better for them,” she said.

“As a recruiter, I do come across a lot of candidates who are deeply unhappy in their roles, which can be due to a number of reasons [such as] poor management or no work-life balance.”

A lot of people could not take the leap of resigning in the past, without another role confirmed, mainly because of the visa restrictions they would face, she said.

“The 180-day security will support those individuals who are itching to make a move and allow time to find a new position that suits them rather than perhaps rushing a process to accept something quickly,” said Ms Roberts.

“This will also give the opportunity for good talent to stay within the region as there's longer to secure something adequate.”

With an influx of expatriates looking to move to the region, she said the law changes will lead to “better retention rates for employers”, as they can be assured that the individual has had the time to consider all of their options before taking the best role for them.

Emirati lawyer Awatif Mohammed said the new law enhances the rights of both employers and employees.

“Employees will not fear losing jobs on the spot with the mandatory 14-day notice period during probation that employers must abide to,” he said.

“The market will further attract talents and skills from across the world, especially after allowing different styles of work, a move that came in response to the challenges forced by Covid-19 but proved necessary to the progress the country is witnessing.”

How job sharing works

Under the condensed hours options, if an employee is expected to work 40 hours a week under their contract, they can now work those hours over three days, said Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

Other flexible working options include shared jobs, when two people work in a single role and split the hours after agreeing to the arrangement with their employer.

David McKenzie, group managing director of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones, said the shared job option would be beneficial for those looking to get back to work after time off.

“If you think about people doing job shares, they will most likely be working mothers looking to get back to part-time work,” he said.

“As they will already be supported by a spousal visa, all they would need is a labour card.

“By introducing this working structure as an option, what you’re doing is empowering people in the workplace who didn’t have many options before.”

With input from Salam Al Amir

Updated: February 14, 2022, 7:43 AM