In April 2018, the UAE Cabinet approved a draft proposal for the issuance of a legislation on Equal Wages and Salaries for Men and Women (the “New Law”). According to the UAE Cabinet, the New Law is in line with the government’s objective to ensure that women have equal opportunities in the workplace and support their role in the process of national development.

The proposal for this New Law comes as part of the UAE Government’s consolidated efforts to narrow the gender gap and support the advancement of women in the society. To this regard, there have been several key developments including the establishment of the UAE Council for Gender Balance, a proposal for a longer maternity leave, and most recently, the adoption of a new package of national legislation, policies and initiatives towards the Strategy for the Empowerment of Emirati Women’ initiative.

The New Law is also expected to complement and build on the recently enacted Federal Law No. 2 of 2015 against Discrimination and Hatred (the “Anti-Discrimination Law”). The Anti-Discrimination Law penalizes discrimination against anyone, especially in the workplace, on various characteristics including race, religion, gender and creed. Similar to the Anti-Discrimination Law, the New Law is not expected to interfere with any other UAE legislation including the UAE Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 (the “UAE Labour Law”). Article 32 of the UAE Labour Law already provides that a female worker shall be granted a wage equal to what a male worker is earning if she is performing the same work. Nonetheless, the approval of the proposal for the New Law further solidifies the UAE Government’s aim of administering gender parity in the workplace.

While the intentions behind the New Law are clearly aimed at encouraging gender equality and tolerance, details of its provisions, how and when it will be implemented and enforced within the UAE are still largely unknown. Similarly, it remains to be tested how the UAE Courts will adjudicate claims/disputes pursuant to the New Law and how it will amalgamate with the currently existing Anti-Discrimination Law and UAE Labour Law.