Shops given three month deadline to check signs

ABU DHABI // Shop owners have been given a three-month deadline to comply with new commercial signage regulations that will lead to smaller, more standardised signs across the emirate.

The regulations, which went into effect last month, will determine the size and type of sign allowed on the capital's storefronts, as well as the position on buildings. Business owners will have three months from the date of their licence renewal to comply with the law, from today in Al Ain and April 15 in Al Gharbia. When the law was first announced, the Urban Planning Council (UPC) said owners would have one year to comply.

"The main objective of the signage is to make sure the cities are good-looking," said Fahim Al Shehhi, the director of the commercial licence division at the Department of Economic Development (DED), which is overseeing compliance.

"Some signs are too big or the wrong material. All of the buildings must be uniform."

Inspectors will visit businesses to ensure they meet the requirements within three months, but Mr Al Shehhi said the DED did not intend to fine owners who did not comply. Business licences will not be renewed unless the signage meets specifications, however.

"Penalties are the last thing we want to do," Mr Al Shehhi said. "The main thing is to work with the customers and inform them of the new processes and procedures."

The DED and the UPC have conducted workshops with more than 70 signmakers and have plans to distribute 200,000 copies of the guidelines.

Signs will no longer be allowed to cover any integral architectural element of a structure or protrude more than 25 centimetres from a building. Ground-level businesses cannot have signs taller than one metre, and sign location, height and position must be consistent with other signage on the same structure.

The regulations also went into effect in Mussaffah, Shahamah and Al Wathba on April 1.

Signage will be replaced at the owner's expense, a price some shop owners estimated could exceed Dh5,000.

But Mr Al Shehhi said prices will remain competitive, because all signmakers will offer the same materials and designs.

"It will remain within everyone's budget," he said.

The authority issued 2,115 permits last year for signboards, billboards and banners. About 100 businesses have already complied with the new regulations.

Your rights as an employee

The government has taken an increasingly tough line against companies that fail to pay employees on time. Three years ago, the Cabinet passed a decree allowing the government to halt the granting of work permits to companies with wage backlogs.

The new measures passed by the Cabinet in 2016 were an update to the Wage Protection System, which is in place to track whether a company pays its employees on time or not.

If wages are 10 days late, the new measures kick in and the company is alerted it is in breach of labour rules. If wages remain unpaid for a total of 16 days, the authorities can cancel work permits, effectively shutting off operations. Fines of up to Dh5,000 per unpaid employee follow after 60 days.

Despite those measures, late payments remain an issue, particularly in the construction sector. Smaller contractors, such as electrical, plumbing and fit-out businesses, often blame the bigger companies that hire them for wages being late.

The authorities have urged employees to report their companies at the labour ministry or Tawafuq service centres — there are 15 in Abu Dhabi.


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The BIO:

He became the first Emirati to climb Mount Everest in 2011, from the south section in Nepal

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UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

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