Government workers will be able to complain about their employers

Federal Government workers will soon be able to lodge grievances about their employers and dispute any complaints made about them.

ABU DHABI // Federal Government workers will soon be able to lodge grievances about their employers and dispute any complaints made about them. A new law approved by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, details the mechanism by which federal employees can file grievances against their ministries.

Employees will not be able to be fired without the opportunity to defend themselves in front of a ministry committee, and they have the right to be represented by a lawyer. Each ministry also must create a committee that employees can use to dispute fines. As well as creating more flexibility in hiring, the law allows ministries and authorities to employ part-time staff, the option of extending maternity leave by 20 days and only permits promotions after rigorous, annual performance reviews.

Pregnant, full-time employees will now be allowed 60 days of maternity leave, starting a week before the delivery date. The father will receive three days of paternity leave. The legislation has been worked on for about two years and will affect 80,000 workers. The Federal Authority for Human Resources, which enforces the law, has not yet released the full text of the legislation, but a draft was published last year in Al Khaleej newspaper.

The wide-ranging document details the rights of employees, and outlines duties, pay and annual leave. The FNC complained in a report last week that several ministries were hiring non-Emiratis outside their regular pay structure. The initial document calls for a minimum wage for Emirati federal employees and raising the monthly salary of Emiratis with a relevant master's degree or a PhD by Dh1,000 and Dh2,000, respectively.

Workers can only receive a rise or a promotion if they perform acceptably in regular performance reviews. Employees can take paid time off to mourn a dead relative, to perform the Hajj and to pursue higher degrees. Fatima Amer, 25, who works at a government body in Abu Dhabi, said regular evaluations would be a better way for promotions. She added that a clearer complaints system would empower employees.

"Employees are not very comfortable making complaints about their bosses. They are worried about losing their jobs," she said. She added that government departments should be required to have more training programmes, and collect more feedback from employees. Shamma Hazza, 25, a human resources supervisor in Dubai, welcomed changes to the holiday system, which was often "better for the organisation" than its staff.

She said evaluations could work if they were implemented well, as presently, employees have to "work for years to get a promotion". To take effect, the law must to be signed by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and also be published in the official gazette.