As of the 01 January 2017, employers in the Emirate of Dubai can expect to receive fines and be subject to severe visa sanctions for non-compliance with Dubai Law No. 11 of 2013 (the Dubai Health Insurance Law).

The Dubai Health Insurance Law introduced a compulsory health insurance scheme, which was rolled out over a number of years. Previous Clyde & Co articles on the topic can be found here and here.

Under the Dubai Health Insurance Law, all employers in Dubai should have had health insurance in place for all employees since 30 June 2016, the official final deadline by which to be compliant. However, those employers who remained non-compliant have benefited from a 6-month grace period, originally intended to give individual sponsors more time. During this grace period the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) took the decision to suspend the issuing of fines and imposing of visa sanctions on both employers and individual sponsors.

Applicable fines and sanctions

However, the DHA's supportive rather than punitive approach is set to end on 31 December 2016, with Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, Director of Health Funding at the DHA, recently insisting that, by the end of this year, fines will become active. This confirmation coincided with the publication of DHA General Circular No.8 of 2016 (GC 06/2015) in late November 2016, concerning mandatory member information and the final deadline. The circular provides that those who remain non-compliant will face severe visa issuance complications, with no existing visas being renewed and no new visas being issued where the individual concerned does not have health insurance coverage in place at the time of visa stamping or renewal. Additionally, financial penalties will also be applied in accordance with Executive Council Resolution No. 7 of 2016. An employer shall receive a penalty of AED 500 per month for every employee who remains without insurance. As well as the fines from DHA, any delay in providing mandatory health insurance may cause an employer to incur fines from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs Dubai (GDRFA).

Enforcement

Question marks over how effective any attempts to track and punish those employers who remain non-compliant appear to have been quelled following the announcement of a partnership between the DHA's Health Funding Department (HFD) and the General Directorate of Residency & Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). The partnerships mandate is to ensure compliance with the Law and is supported by a real-time system linking the DHA’s Members Register directly with the GDRFA. The system will rely on data provided by employers and individual sponsors via their health insurance companies. The system has been designed to detect any gaps in a company's insurance as of 1 January 2017, meaning fines and sanctions will be applied retrospectively. GC 06/2015 provides the following example:

"an individual’s Health Insurance policy expires on February 1st 2017, and their visa expires on January 1st 2017, when they renew the visa during the month of January 2017 it will be renewed without any issues if however the individual does not maintain constant health insurance coverage, upon the next visa renewal, the system will track and log the gap in insurance. I.e. if they were uninsured for two months between visa renewals, the time of renewal they will have incurred a fine of AED 1,000 (AED 500 per month)."

The submission of mandatory information

GC 06/2015 also informs employers of their responsibility to provide the required mandatory information concerning the individuals being insured and urges employers to ensure that the information they provide to the DHA is both complete and accurate. Any employer failing to provide the required information or who is found to be supplying false and/or inaccurate information could face complications when applying for the issuance of new visas or the renewal of existing visas as well as financial penalties.

Conclusion

The enforcement of fines and the introduction of a real-time system able to detect gaps in a company's (or sponsor's) insurance coverage is the final step in the implementation of Dubai's health insurance coverage. Any employer or sponsor who has not yet complied with the requirements to provide health insurance coverage should seek to rectify this position before 2016 ends.