There have recently been two important legal developments introduced in the UAE designed to facilitate flexibility in the labour market: the part-time working resolution and the remote working resolution.

The part-time work permit provides employers with a useful option for filling labour gaps, perhaps during anti-social hours without resorting to costly overtime or further full-time positions in excess of total requirements. On this basis, additional flexibility for employees, the labour market and employers has to be welcomed. However, employers need to strike the right balance and ensure appropriate measures are put in place to protect their legitimate business interests given that prior consent of the employer is no required.

Part time working in the UAE

Ministerial Decision no 31 of 2018 Concerning Developing a New Employment System Under Part-Time Contracts ("Decision") came into force in March 2018 and allows eligible employees to work for more than one employer without having to obtain the permission of their original employer and sponsor. Part-time work permits have been available for some time but previously consent was required from the original employer/sponsor.

The Decision aims to provide flexibility to the labour market but there are still areas of uncertainty for employers over the extent of their obligations to part-time employees.

In order to be eligible for the new part time work permit the employee must:

  • be based in the UAE and in the case of expatriates hold a current residence visa and work permit with an employer registered with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation ("MOHRE"); .
  • hold a diploma certificate, university degree or any other higher education;
  • work less than 8 hours daily or 48 hours weekly (but not less than 20 hours weekly) with their original employer; and
  • obtain the approval of the MOHRE.

The total number of hours worked by the employee across all employment contracts should not exceed 144 hours in a three week period (except in the event of MOHRE approval) and the employee should have a minimum of one rest day per week.

Obligations of original employer

The sponsor/original employer is responsible for incurring the costs associated with securing the employee's residency permissions in addition to statutory obligations arising under Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 such as annual leave and end of service gratuity.

Notwithstanding this, a secondary employer may choose to provide a part time employee with such payments on a discretionary basis and where they choose to do so this should be documented in their employment contract. This seems unusual and places the burden solely on the primary employer.

Actions for employers

Pursuant to the Decision the MOHRE is required to inform the original employer/sponsor when a partial work permit is granted to an employee but consent of the original employer is not required which means employers should take steps now to protect their legitimate business interests. It is not clear what remedies an employer would have if an employee was to work for a competitor in breach of any non compete restrictions but generally injunctive relief is not available in the UAE.

  • Therefore, employers should ensure their contracts are carefully drafted with comprehensive non-compete obligations, confidentiality obligations and consider including liquidated damages clauses in the case of breaches;
  • introduce a part-time working policy which clearly sets out an employee's obligations should they wish to undertake a second job including prior notification
  • Employment contracts should be carefully drafted to ensure that employee's entitlements are clearly set out and if these should be prorated in accordance with their reduced hours. We recommend employers consult with their legal advisors to ensure employment contracts clearly set out respective obligations.
  • Secondary employers should also ensure that their employment contracts appropriately reflect their reduced hours working arrangements and clearly set out what benefits (if any) the employees are entitled to.

Our dedicated employment team will keep you updated on developments in this area

Right for UAE nationals to apply for Remote Working

Ministerial Decision No 787/2017 on the Regulation of Telework (the ''Resolution''), came into force in late 2017 giving eligible UAE nationals the right to apply to work remotely.

Teleworking is the concept of using modern technology to enable an employee to work from home while maintaining contact with colleagues, customers, or a central office.

Aims of the Resolution

To create and provide:

1. Job opportunities for UAE citizens looking for work in remote areas by encouraging employers to offer teleworking employment options;

2. Flexible work options for UAE citizens (particularly female nationals), to enhance family relationships by improving the balance between work and family.

What are the conditions for teleworking?

In order to be eligible for teleworking, an employee must:

a) be employed by a company registered with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization; and

b) have at least six months' service if employed on a full time basis or one year's service if employed on a part-time service.

What must employers do now?

Employers must clearly specify which roles may be suitable for a teleworking arrangement and how employees can submit an application. Employers are encouraged to consider the following factors when assessing an application for teleworking:

a) whether the arrangement is suitable in terms of the employee's role and duties;

b) whether the employer will incur additional cost as a result of the arrangement;

c) the effect the arrangement will have on the employer's service; and

d) whether the employee is of an adequate skill level to undertake their role remotely.

Employers must respond to an application for teleworking within 20 working days and must state the reasons for rejection (if applicable). If an employee's application for teleworking is rejected then they may reapply twice within the same year.

Implementing teleworking

If an employee's application for teleworking is approved, the employer and employee must enter into an agreement which sets it outs terms and should include:

1. a breakdown of the hours to be worked remotely and those to be worked at the employer's premises;

2. the remote locations from which the employee will be permitted to perform their role; and

3. any wages, allowances and leave provided in excess of the minimum rights detailed in the UAE Labour Law.

The teleworking agreement should be appended to the employee's contract of employment.

Practical considerations for employers

Employers should begin by following the specific obligations laid out in the Resolution. Employers should also consider how matters will work in practice. As a starting point, employers should reflect on the points below:

  • how they will manage employee accountability and visibility;
  • how the employee will maintain regular contact with the rest of their team i.e. their line manager or supervisor;
  • whether the employer has an insurance policy in place which extends to employees working remotely;
  • whether a risk assessment of the employee's working environment should be carried out;
  • whether the employee will require any additional training to enable them to work from home. For example, training on how to secure data and confidential information.