UAE labour law strengthens employee rights; new visa rules given to jobseekers

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First outlined last November, the UAE government’s newly amended labour law is set to take effect on Wednesday, which is expected to provide options that were not available before and strengthen employee rights.

Job recruiters say the new law will give more security and stability to jobseekers in the private sector in the Emirates.

One of the major changes under the new rules is that people will be able to live in the country for up to six months after leaving a job.

Shorter, fixed-term contracts will also be introduced for most private-sector employees and some residents will now have the option to condense their working week as long as the contracted hours are met.

Louise Vine, managing director at Inspire Selection recruitment agency in Dubai, said she is encouraged by the new law.

“When someone loses their job, they have six months to find a new one instead of only 30 days, so it offers more stability for their family,” she said.

“Also, when someone wants to quit because they really do not like their job, they now have six months to find another, so feel less pressured into accepting a job they do not want.

In her years as a recruiter, Ms Vine said she has come across people who have “accepted jobs out of desperation”, only to have a visa, which buys them time to find their ideal job.

She said this short-term employment is financially detrimental to the employer and creates an unstable work environment.

Emily Roberts, a consultant at Genie, a recruitment agency in Dubai, said the move will have a positive effect on workplace well-being and environments, as many job seekers can now spend time searching for the right opportunity.

“I believe this may spur some individuals to make the jump and look for a role that is better for them,” she said.

“As a recruiter, I do come across a lot of candidates who are deeply unhappy in their roles, which can be due to a number of reasons [such as]poor management or no work-life balance.”

A lot of people could not take the leap of resigning in the past, without another role confirmed, mainly because of the visa restrictions they would face, she said.

“The 180-day security will support those individuals who are itching to make a move and allow time to find a new position that suits them rather than perhaps rushing a process to accept something quickly,” said Ms. Roberts.

Emirati lawyer Awatif Mohammed said the new law enhances the rights of both employers and employees.

“Employees will not fear losing jobs on the spot with the mandatory 14-day notice period during probation that employers must abide to,” he said.

“The market will further attract talents and skills from across the world, especially after allowing different styles of work, a move that came in response to the challenges forced by Covid-19 but proved necessary to the progress the country is witnessing.”

Under the condensed hours options, if an employee is expected to work 40 hours a week under their contract, they can now work those hours over three days, said Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

Other flexible working options include shared jobs, when two people work in a single role and split the hours after agreeing to the arrangement with their employer.

David McKenzie, group managing director of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones, said the shared job option would be beneficial for those looking to get back to work after time off.

“If you think about people doing job shares, they will most likely be working mothers looking to get back to part-time work,” he said.

“As they will already be supported by a spousal visa, all they would need is a labour card.

“By introducing this working structure as an option, what you’re doing is empowering people in the workplace who didn’t have many options before.” (Source: The National)

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