UAE Coronavirus : Employment considerations

The Novel Coronavirus pandemic has led to severe changes in our personal and professional lives, with no certainty as to how the world post-pandemic may look. The economy has suffered tremendously, and a global recession seems inevitable. With lockdown and curfew now lifted in much of the UAE, and the world gradually approaching some semblance of normality, employers are increasingly in a situation that the survival of their business is questionable, we unpick certain of the legalities surrounding challenges facing UAE businesses and thus employers, in the time of Covid-19.

Remote working

Private sector businesses, as well as malls, were permitted to reopen to 100% capacity from 3 June 2020, and governmental authorities are able to operate as normal from 14 June 2020, after an extended period of closures and remote working. Preventative measures however must be observed by those businesses that reopen include employees (as well as customers) wearing face masks, maintaining a minimum distance of two meters between individuals and ensuring the regular use of hand sanitizers.

Employers are further required to implement protective measures at these premises, including the provision of screening devices to monitor employees’ temperatures, regular check for symptoms of Covid-19 and report any suspected cases to the health authorities.

Although VOIP apps are ordinarily strictly banned in the UAE, the UAE Telecommunications and Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced on 24th March the availability of a set of applications "exceptionally and until further notice" including Microsoft Teams and Zoom in coordination with the UAE telecom operators. These applications may be made use for video conferencing and are invaluable tools in the performance of remote working.

Sick leave

If you contract the coronavirus, alternatively are mandated to quarantine due to potential exposure, sick leave provisions per law will apply over the relevant period. In terms of UAE Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 (as amended) ("UAE Labour Law"), Article 83, an employee shall be entitled to sick leave not exceeding 90 days for every year of service, calculated as follows :

  •     The first fifteen days with full pay
  •     The following thirty days with half pay
  •     The following periods without pay

Annual leave

In terms of UAE Labour Law, an employer has the right to determine the time and period of annual leave provided to their employees and therefore, forced annual leave may be imposed if necessary. The UAE annual leave entitlement is a minimum of 30 calendar days.

After an employee has exhausted their annual leave entitlement, and in the event that they are prevented from returning to work due to precautionary measures or travel restrictions, employers may place them on unpaid leave if they cannot perform their duties remotely.

Amendment of Employment Contract/Redundancy

The MOHRE published Resolution No. 279 of 2020 (the "Resolution") effective 26th March, in response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus providing options for employers forced to reorganize their workforce due to impact of the precautionary measures enforced by the government due to Covid-19.

In terms of Article 2 of the Resolution, companies affected by the measures implemented in response to Covid-19 may implement any of the following in agreement with their non-citizen employee :

  •     Implement a telecommuting system
  •     Granting paid leave
  •     Granting leave without pay
  •     Temporary reduction in wages for a defined period
  •     Permanent reduction in wages

Per Article 3, those employers having a surplus of employees as a result of the above-listed measures are required to register their employee's data on the Virtual Labour Market system so that they may provide resources where otherwise needed.

Worthy to note that where the parties agree upon temporary reduction in wages, they must conclude an additional temporary appendix to the Employment Agreement which should be provided to the Ministry of Labour upon request. Where the parties agree to a permanent reduction in wages, the employer must apply to the Ministry for approval.

Further and other measures to assist businesses and individuals in the UAE are announced daily as the government recognizes the difficulties experiences during these uncertain times. We, at Senat, are closely monitoring these developments and shall continue to keep you informed.

Senat MEA is a full service platform, founded in 2014, with roots in Dubai that go back as far as 1984. Dedicated to trust and efficiency, at Senat MEA we ensure that our clients are equipped with leading counsel in navigating the region while taking into account the global nature of business and the importance of developing long lasting relationships.

Senat MEA’s team of lawyers, accountants and business consultants are highly qualified and come from a variety of backgrounds enabling us to supply you with incomparable expertise and outstanding services.

This article is based on publicly available information and given for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or as a comprehensive analysis of the matters referred to herein.

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