Use the Lexology Navigator tool to compare the answers in this article with those from other jurisdictions. 

Recruitment

Advertising

What are the requirements relating to advertising positions?

There are no specific requirements, rules or regulations governing the advertisement of positions in the United Arab Emirates. It is common to find advertised posts being restricted to Western-qualified candidates only, specific genders or nationals of specific countries. The DIFC Employment Law’s anti-discrimination provisions do not extend to capture job applicants or candidates.

Background checks

What can employers do with regard to background checks and inquiries in relation to the following:

(a) Criminal records?

As of February 4 2018 all employees who are applying for employment residence visas must obtain a Good Conduct Certificate (or No Criminal Record certificate, or similar) from every country in which they have resided in the last five years, at the time of work permit application. (b) Medical history?

As a pre-condition to the issuance of a UAE residency visa (and part of the general visa sponsorship application process), all expatriates in the DIFC must undergo a medical test at the DIFC’s own dedicated medical test centre. This test is intended to screen for certain infectious diseases (eg, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis). A UAE residency visa will not be granted if an expatriate fails this test.

An employer may ask a candidate to undergo additional medical tests at a clinic or hospital of the employer’s choosing and at the expense of the employer. The employer may make employment conditional on the candidate passing these tests.

(c) Drug screening?

There are no general restrictions contained in the DIFC Employment Law regarding employer screening for drugs or the implementation of drug-testing measures as part of the pre-employment stage. The UAE adopts a zero-tolerance approach to possession and misuse of narcotic drugs. Such pre-employment checks are rare in practice.

(d) Credit checks?

In November 2014 the UAE Central Bank set up the Al Ittihad Credit Bureau, which checks the creditworthiness of individuals (www.aecb.gov.ae). Timelines for reports on credit checks will vary depending on the bank.

(e) Immigration status?

Expatriate employees will require a DIFC work permit and residency visa through a locally licensed and registered entity in order to lawfully reside and work in the United Arab Emirates (and in particular, the DIFC). There is also a unified identification card issued by the Emirates ID Authority, which residents should carry at all times.

(f) Social media?

Generally, there are a number of laws in place (notably, the UAE Penal Code and UAE Cybercrimes Law and DIFC data protection laws) providing for an overarching framework of privacy and the punishment of misuse or breach. However, depending on a candidate’s user privacy settings, certain information may be publicly available. It is common for employers to use professional social media sites (eg, LinkedIn) as part of the general pre-employment and recruitment stage.

(g) Other?

None. 

Wages and working time

Pay

Is there a national minimum wage and, if so, what is it?

There is no national minimum wage in the DIFC.

Are there restrictions on working hours?

In the DIFC, weekly working hours must not exceed, on average, 48 hours over a seven-day period, unless the employer first obtains the employee’s written consent to work longer hours.

Reduced Ramadan hours are applicable only to fasting Muslim employees.

Hours and overtime

What are the requirements for meal and rest breaks?

Where an employee’s daily working time is more than six hours, he or she is entitled to at least one hour of rest and prayer break. Employees are entitled to no less than 24 hours’ rest in each seven-day work period. There are no express overtime provisions in the DIFC.

How should overtime be calculated?

The DIFC Employment Law has no specific provisions on overtime or overtime pay.

Employees can agree in writing to opt out of the maximum 48-hour weekly working limit.

However, the law does expressly prohibit excessive employee working hours practices by providing that the employer cannot require or allow (directly or indirectly) an employee to work excessive hours or hours that would be detrimental to health and safety.

There is no case law regarding the term ‘excessive’ in this context. However, it would ultimately depend on the type of role and the impact that it has on the employee’s health.

What exemptions are there from overtime?

N/A.

Is there a minimum paid holiday entitlement?

Employees are entitled to a minimum 20 working days’ paid holiday per year, accrued on a pro rata basis, for employees who have been employed for at least 90 days.

What are the rules applicable to final pay and deductions from wages?

  • Deductions from an employee’s wages cannot be made unless:
  • the deduction or payment is required or authorised under a statutory provision or the employee’s contract of employment;
  • the employee has previously agreed in writing to the deduction or payment;
  • the deduction or payment is a reimbursement for an overpayment of wages or expenses; or
  • the deduction or payment has been ordered by the court.

Record keeping

What payroll and payment records must be maintained?

For each employee, the employer must keep records (in paper or electronic format) of:

  • the employee's name, date of birth, occupation, telephone number and contact address;
  • the date on which employment began;
  • the employee's wages (gross and net, where applicable) and the applicable pay period;
  • the hours worked by the employee on each day;
  • the benefits paid to the employee by the employer;
  • any deduction made from the employee's wages and the reason for it;
  • the dates of the public holidays taken by the employee and the amounts paid by the employer in that respect;
  • the dates of annual leave taken by the employee, the amounts paid by the employer in respect of the leave and the accrued days and amounts owing; and
  • sick leave and other special leaves of absence.

The records must be kept in English and at the employer's principal place of business in the free zone. They must be retained by the employer for at least two years after the employment terminates.

Discrimination, harassment & family leave

What is the position in relation to:

Protected categories

(a) Age?

Under the DIFC Employment Law, discrimination is prohibited against employees on various grounds, but these do not include age.

(b) Race

Under the DIFC Employment Law, discrimination is prohibited against employees regarding employment and any terms of employment based on race.

(c) Disability?

Under the DIFC Employment Law, discrimination is prohibited against employees regarding employment and any terms of employment based on mental or physical disability. A ‘disability’ is defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on an employee’s ability to carry out his or her duties in accordance with his or her employment contract. An impairment has a long-term effect if it has lasted at least 12 months or is likely to last at least 12 months.

(d) Gender?

Under the DIFC Employment Law, discrimination is prohibited against employees regarding employment and any terms of employment based on gender.

(e) Sexual orientation?

Homosexual acts are a criminal offence under the UAE Penal Code.

(f) Religion?

Under the DIFC Employment Law, discrimination is prohibited against employees regarding employment and any terms of employment based on religion.

(g) Medical?

Where an employee takes more than an aggregate of 60 working days’ sick leave in any 12-month period, the employer may terminate employment immediately with written notice to the employee. 

(h) Other?

The DIFC Employment Law also provides for protection against discrimination on the basis of marital status and nationality. 

Family and medical leave

What is the position in relation to family and medical leave?

DIFC female employees are entitled to a minimum maternity leave of 65 working days, subject to having at least one year of continuous service before the expected week of childbirth.

Employees with less than one year’s service are still entitled to 65 working days of maternity leave, although there is no entitlement to pay during this period.

Any public holidays that fall within this period will extend the maternity leave period accordingly.

The above provisions also apply to female employees who adopt a child aged less than three months. Where the above refers to childbirth, the relevant date will be the date of adoption.

There is no provision for paternity leave in the DIFC.

Employees in the DIFC are entitled to sick leave not exceeding a maximum of 60 working days in aggregate in any 12-month period. The employer is required to pay the employee sick pay at the rate of daily total salary (except where the contract is for one month or less) and subject to any sickness absence notification requirements.

Harassment

What is the position in relation to harassment?

The DIFC Employment Law prohibits harassment where, on the grounds of a protected characteristic, the employee is subject to unwarranted treatment or conduct which has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive workplace.

Sexual harassment is also a criminal offence in the United Arab Emirates.

Whistleblowing

What is the position in relation to whistleblowing?

The Dubai Financial Services Authority, the DIFC’s financial services regulator, requires employers to have in place appropriate procedures to allow employees to report wrongdoing (eg, market misconduct, financial crime and money laundering). The potential penalties for breach include fines and an order that remedial steps be taken to rectify breaches or undertake further steps to remediate evident deficiencies.

Since there is no specific whistleblowing legislation in the DIFC, the protections available to whistleblowers are the fairly limited protections available under the DIFC Employment Law.

Click here to view the full article.