UAE’s new labour laws hailed by diplomats, but say more can be done

Diplomats believe new labour laws should put an end to the practice of workers being hired for one form of employment then forced to perform another job.

ABU DHABI // The UAE’s new labour laws should put an end to the practice of coercing workers to do a job that they were not originally hired for, foreign diplomats say.

The laws, which took effect on January 1, aim to ensure a transparent, contract-based relationship between employees and employers.

However, some said that the laws could go further by stipulating rules about labourers’ accommodation and expenses, as well as clarifying issues over workplace disputes.

“Until court judgements are pronounced, [workers’] cases remain pending in courts for months and sometimes years. And they live a hard life without accommodation and money,” said Nepalese ambassador Dhananjay Jha.

Mr Jha said should a dispute arise between workers and employers they would have to wait for the labour court to rule on the matter.

“There should be a mandatory time frame for the case to be reconciled or resolved,” said Mr Jha.

The ambassador urged the Ministry of Labour to help workers who often lack the money to mount a legal case.

In many cases, the verdict is delayed because the employer refused to reply to correspondence or summons to court.

Mr Jha suggested making arrangements to accommodate workers during that period.

The envoy hailed the introduction of contracts that include the native languages of the workers. “It is a most effective step when a worker can understand what is written in the contract,” said Mr Jha.

The diplomat added that similar rules should be introduced for housemaids, especially regarding their working hours and workplace mistreatment.

“If a maid flees the house, the sponsor immediately complains about her absconding, but why she fled is not cared about,” he said.

Mr Jha said the Government should set up specialist units to help workers and employers to reach a compromise.

Sri Lankan ambassador S J Mohideen welcomed the new labour laws, saying that it put employees on “a better footing”.

“It may cause some concern for the employer but I can see that it’s heavily in favour of the employee,” he said.

“It’s good thing that the new labour laws prevent any changes once a workman arrives.”

Mr Mohideen said having contracts written in workers’ native language was a good idea. “The Sinhalese will be very happy if the contract is in their own language,” he said.

Indian ambassador T P Seetharam said the new labour laws would “prevent the substitution of contracts because that was a problem”.

He, too, welcomed the introduction of contracts with workers’ native language.

“We are very happy that new provisions also make it possible to have mobility in employment. Under certain conditions it’s possible to change jobs, which was not possible earlier,” he said.

The envoy said the new labour laws were more transparent, comprehensive and beneficial to workers.

“We welcome all such steps taken by the UAE Government to make it more convenient and fair for the employees to come and work here,” said Mr Seetharam.

For Bangladeshi ambassador Muhammad Imran, it is a “good thing” that workers and employers can mutually dissolve the contracts and for workers to switch to other jobs.

“The new contracts are more genuine, transparent and better safeguards workers’ rights,” he said.

Transparent relationship:

ABU DHABI // New Ministry of Labour rules implemented from January 1 allow employers and employees to end their agreements under contract.

“The three new decrees that ensures a stable, balanced and transparent working relationship between employers and workers, are based on a contractual basis accepted between both sides in line with the labour laws and regulations, which also enables them the right to end the relationship any time,” said Humaid bin Deemas, assistant undersecretary for labour affairs at the MoL.

According to the MoL, an employer and employee can mutually terminate an employment contract after six months. In event a party decides to terminate the relationship unilaterally they shall be obliged to face all legal consequences to end the relationship.

Workers in skill categories one to three will not face a six- month employment ban should they wish to move to a new employer after completing their notice period. Whereas fourth and fifth skill category workers can move to another employer after completing a period of no less than six months with their current firm.