UAE workers seek clarification of new labour laws

Workers say they are stuck in low-end, low-paid jobs that they are overqualified for and are awaiting laws that will allow them to find more suitable employment.

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ABU DHABI // Many workers are unsure how new labour rules will affect them.

Some said they were stuck in low-end, low-paid jobs for which they were overqualified and were awaiting laws that would allow them to find more suitable employment. They claimed employers were using the laws to keep them from leaving.

Muhammad Ghafari, a senior engineer, has been working for his present company for 10 months and recently received an offer of a better job.

“I got a good offer of a job that paid Dh18,000 but was concerned about the law and couldn’t understand the new rules, but I heard it supports employees. My current employer pays me Dh5,000 a month but I got a good offer lately from another company and I wanted to switch the job.”

The Pakistani, a university graduate, wanted to hand his notice in but was afraid of the consequences. “I plan to give my employer a month’s notice to leave the company and I hope he agrees. Since the law is in place now, I can negotiate with my employer to move,” he said.


The new rules - at a glance

“The three new decrees that ensure 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 Ministry of Labour.

Key points

• An employer and employee can mutually terminate an employment contract after six months.

• In the event a party decides to terminate employment unilaterally they shall be obliged to face all legal consequences.

• 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.

• 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.

Full rules can be read on the MoL website


According to Ministry of Labour rules, the employee and employers can mutually terminate the contract, provided the worker has completed a period of six months. Some workers, however, believed that the new rules should be better publicised.

“Rules are there on the Ministry of Labour website, but we can’t properly understand it. It should be simplified,” Mr Ghafari said.

For some workers, however, the new laws offered hope that they could amicably leave their current role.

Momin Khan used to earn Dh4,000 a month as a foreman but drives a bus for just Dh2,500 a month.

“Due to family matters I had to discontinue the job for a year. When I came back I couldn’t get any job and agreed to drive a bus on a paltry salary of Dh2,500,” Mr Khan said. “I am trying to get my old job back because I don’t like driving the bus and the salary is insufficient,” said Mr Khan, who was a foreman for 10 years.