Introduction to Abu Dhabi Global Market – Employment Regulations

In 2013 the Abu Dhabi Global Market (“ADGM”) was established as a financial free zone in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Since then, the ADGM has implemented its own rules and regulations and the final version of its Employment Regulations are now enacted and published.

The Employment Regulations cover most stages of an employment relationship from recruitment to working conditions and termination. These Employment Regulations resemble that of the Dubai International Finance Centre (“DIFC”) albeit with certain noteworthy distinctions such as the introduction of age discrimination, part-time positions (with pro-rated benefits), and an option of paternity leave. The ADGM Employment Regulations will apply to all companies and employees that are based within the ADGM in Abu Dhabi.

Some key provisions to note from the new ADGM Employment Regulations are as follows:

  • Employees to perform their duties with diligence and care and not to accept gifts or advantages in return for their performance, not compete with the employer’s business, and not disclose any of their employer’s confidential information.
  • The working time of an employee is not to exceed 48 hours per seven day period (unless the employee waives this).
  • An employee (with more than one month’s service) is entitled to 60 business days of paid sick leave in aggregate in any 12 month period. Employees exceeding this amount may be subject to immediate termination.
  • Maternity leave of 65 business days and fathers are entitled to 5 business days paid paternity leave.
  • An employer must ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees, which includes a clean and equipped workplace “free of harassment”.
  • Direct or indirect discrimination or harassment on grounds of sex, marital status, race, nationality, religion, age, mental or physical disability is strictly prohibited. Employer to make reasonable adjustments for the benefit of disabled employees.
  • Employees are entitled to written statements of reasons for dismissal and minimum notice periods are set out in line with the length of service.
  • Pension and end of service gratuity provisions provide that employees are entitled to the latter unless they are UAE or GCC nationals in which case they should be enrolled in a pension scheme.

The Employment Regulations aim to provide certainty in relation to all aspects of employment in the ADGM and the new regime has some quite innovative provisions not seen before in the UAE such as paternity leave and the prohibition of age discrimination. As the Regulations introduce new concepts to the UAE it will be interesting to see how the legislation is received locally and whether this will make any impact on the Federal UAE Labour Law in due course.