The Emirate of Sharjah has recently introduced a new law amending the Sharjah Civil Service Law. This new law is somewhat of a revelation in the area of maternity and paternity leave in the UAE. According to the amendment, government female employees shall be granted maternity leave with full salary for 90 days. Further, the new law provides that maternity leave and annual leave or leave without pay (up to a maximum of 120 days) may be combined from the start of maternity leave, and also a three-day paid paternity leave shall be given to a male government employee within a month of the date of child birth.

Female employees in the UAE have been calling for additional or increased maternity leave benefits to be provided. At present, Article 30 of the UAE Labour Law states that female employees in the private sector are entitled to 45 days of maternity leave with full pay provided they have served a minimum of one year continuous employment. Where a shorter period of employment has been served, female employees are entitled to 45 days leave with half pay. Once a female employee has exhausted the maternity leave, she may be absent from work for a total period of 100 consecutive or non consecutive days without pay, however this additional absence must be due to an illness preventing her from returning to work and be supported by a medical certificate. Those working in the public sector enjoy a slightly longer period of 60 days, however female employees have been calling for longer periods of leave to help mothers have sufficient time to bond with their new born children.

It is clear that such maternity leave provisions differ significantly from maternity leave entitlements women receive in other countries, for example in Sweden or the UK. Also, the UAE Labour Law does not recognise the concept of paternity leave or adoption leave, whereas employees in other countries are entitled to take such leave.

Although the new law and its provisions will only affect government employees in the Emirate of Sharjah, we would be surprised if the Governments of Dubai and Abu Dhabi do not follow suit in time and implement similar provisions. For now however, it will remain to be seen if employee’s working in the private sector in Sharjah will also benefit from the new age thinking of the Sharjah Government.