Dubai Labour Law

Dubai Labour Laws image

The Dubai labour law handles matters related to working hours, vacation and public holidays, sick leave, employing juveniles, maternity leave, employee records, safety standards, termination of employment and end of service gratuity payments. According to Article 3 of the Law, it applies to all employees working in the UAE, whether UAE nationals or expatriates. However, there are certain categories of employees who are exempt from the law and may have to follow another set of regulations.

As amended by Federal Law No. 24 of 1981 and Federal Law No. 12 of 1986, the provisions listed in the law do not apply to the following categories:

  • employees and workers of the federal government and the local governmental departments
  • employees and workers in public entities and institutions, whether federal or local, and employees and workers appointed for governmental, federal and local projects
  • members of armed forces, police and security
  • domestic servants in private households and similar occupations
  • workers in farms or pastures with the exception of persons working in agricultural institutions processing the products thereof or the persons permanently operating or repairing mechanical machines required for agriculture.

Employment of Workers

In the event that an employer cannot find suitable national workers, employment employment preference shall be given to workers from a country that is an Arab State before workers holding other nationalities. A National Employment Section will be established by the Ministry of Labour for all non-employed nationals which allows the Ministry to examine the records of registered non-employed nationals to ensure there are no eligible nationals before granting a non-national the position of employment and a work permit.

Youth Labor

Youth of both genders must be at least fifteen years of age in order to work within the UAE. Age verification as well as written consent from the guardian or trustee of the youth must be received before the youth may begin employment. The total weekly as well as daily hours, working times, and job descriptions for youth employment are restricted.

Women Labor

Women are prohibited from working at night unless under special circumstances. Female workers are protected by the Law to receive wages equal to any male employees performing the same work.

Working females are entitled to 45 days of full pay for maternity leave provided that she has served continuously for at least one year. Maternity leave is paid with half pay if one year of service has yet to be completed. At the end of the maternity leave, the woman has the ability to extend her leave at an unpaid rate for a maximum period of 10 days.

For the first 18 months following delivery, female employees who nurse their child are granted two paid rest intervals per day, not exceeding 30 minutes, in order to complete this task.

Working fathers are not provided paternity leave under the Law.

Employment Contracts

Employment contracts for UAE nationals are not required to be in writing; however, a labor permit for an expatriate employee will not be issued by the Ministry unless the employer has filed a formal, written labor contract.

Contracts for both nationals and foreign workers come in the form of limited employment contracts, or fixed term contracts, which detail a specified duration of time (typically two years) and are inclusive of commencement and completion dates, and unlimited contracts where a commencement date is given and the employee may work until the contract is terminated by either party with prior notice given.

By law, all contracts must specify the following:

1. Wages/remuneration payable.

2. Date of the employment contract.

3. Date of commencement of the employment contract.

4. Nature of the contract (limited or unlimited).

5. Nature of the work.

6. Duration of the contract (for fixed term contracts).

7. The location of employment.

The Ministry of Labour office provides standard employment contracts, both in Arabic and English, where the employer and employee only need to fill in the relevant information. However, employers and employees have the ability to draft and lodge their own employment contracts as long as the contract is in the Arabic language and the provisions of the contract do not contradict the Law.

Probation Period

A probation period for employment can last up to six months. It is not possible to engage an employee on more than one probation period for the same employer. During the probation period, the employee may be dismissed for any reason without receiving notice or gratuity from the employer. Conversely, the employee may also resign from his employment during the probation period without any consequences. Once the probation period has ended, the time lapsed is included toward the overall period of service.


Accurate records shall be kept relating to each employee, including their personal details, pay rate, any injuries or penalties to the employee, leave logs, and any other relevant information. Larger companies may be required to keep additional records.


Under the UAE Labor Law, there are no standardized salary or minimum wage requirements.

A “basic wage” is the wage specified in the labor contract that the employer has agreed to pay to the employee exclusive of allowances such as accommodation, housing, transport, and travel. Basic wage is crucial in determining the end-of-service gratuity which is based off of the last drawn basic wage and not the total wage of the employee.

Wages are to be paid at a minimum of once per month for employees engaged on yearly or monthly remuneration, with all other employees to be paid at least once every two weeks. All wages are to be paid in the national currency.

Employers are granted permission to make valid deductions to an employee’s salary under the conditions specified by Article 60 and Article 61; however, the amount an employer may deduct from a single salary has limits imposed. No more than 10% of the employee’s periodic pay may be deducted in cases of repayment of advances or amounts of money paid to the employee in excess of his entitlement. Additionally, any debts payable in execution of court judgement may not exceed one-forth of the employee’s pay; should the employee owe numerous debts or creditors, no more than half of their wages may be deducted. Finally, if the employee has caused loss, damage, or destruction to any property of the company due to violation of employer’s instructions or fault of the employee, up to five days wages per month may be deducted to rectify the error.

Working Hours

The work week in the UAE consists of a maximum of eight hours per day and forty-eight hours per week. Employees shall not be required to work more than five consecutive hours per day without a period of time allocated for rest, meals, and prayer. Travel to and from work, as well as resting and meal breaks, are not calculated as working hours. Working hours may be increased to nine hours per day for those employed in trades, hotels, cafeterias, and as guards. The Ministry has also specified the manner in which employees may take their mandated breaks for those employees who work in factories doing around the clock work or jobs where, for technical or economical reasons, continuous attendance is required.

During Ramadan, the ordinary working hours shall be reduced by two hours.

Employees who work overtime are entitled to overtime pay equivalent to their wage pay during ordinary hours plus an additional amount of at least 25% of the wage for the overtime period; the additional overtime rate increases to a minimum of 50% of the normal wages should the overtime hours fall between 9:00 pm and 4:00 am. The rules do not apply to those who hold executive and administrative positions as they are expected to work longer hours without overtime pay. Unless there are extreme circumstances which have occurred, overtime should not exceed two hours per day.

Friday is the set day of rest for all workers. Workers who complete work on Friday are entitled to request a rest day in lieu which can be taken at a later date or to be paid their basic wage plus an additional rate that is at least 50% of the said wage. Unless the employee’s wages are calculated on a daily basis, the employee cannot be asked to work two consecutive Fridays.


Employees are entitled to full wages on the following official holidays:

1. Hijri New Year’s Day, one day

2. Gregorian New Year’s Day, one day

3. Eid Al Fitr (end of Ramadan), two days

4. Eid Al Adha and Waqf, three days

5. Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday, one day

6. Isra and Al Miraj, one day

7. National Day, one day

Additionally, employers must give the employee one period of special leave during their employment, without pay and not exceeding 30 days, to complete the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Employees who have completed at least six months of work but have not yet completed one full calendar year of service are granted two paid days per month of annual leave. Employees who have completed at least one full year receive 30 days of paid leave per year. Should the worker’s employment end, they will receive their annual leave based on the fraction of the year worked. Employers must approve the dates for annual leave and reserve the right to divide the leave into two parts if they desire.

If an employee becomes sick or injured and is unable to attend work, the ailment must be reported to the employer within a maximum of two days. After the probation period (three months working) has been completed the employee receives 90 days of continuous or intermittent sick days. Sick leave remuneration is as follows:

  • Full pay for the first 15 days
  • Half pay for the next 30 days
  • No pay for the remaining 60 days

Employers may request an official medical certificate as proof of illness during the employee’s absence. Sick leave will be forfeited if it is proven that the illness was caused by direct misconduct such as drinking or narcotics or if an employee is found working at any other establishments during their leave period.

Labour Accommodation

In June 2009, the UAE Cabinet launched the Manual of the General Criteria for the Workers' Accommodation. The manual sets standards for minimum facilities that must be provided to the labourers while adhering to the established environment, health and safety laws. It also recommends providing recreational amenities for them. Municipal authorities regularly inspect the accommodations.

Under the UAE National Programme for Happiness and Positivity, MoHRE launched a series of initiatives for labour happiness. These initiatives include: Happiest Work Environment, Best Labour Accommodation, Happiest Bus and Happiness SIM. The Best Labour Accommodation initiative aims to comply with and fulfill the Manual of the General Criteria for the Workers' Accommodation.

As per the Ministerial Resolution No. 591 of 2016 concerning the commitment of establishments, establishments with 50 or more workers, where the wage of each worker is less than AED 2000 per month, must provide accommodation for its workers.

Free Zones Employees

Those working in free zones are generally not governed by the UAE Labour Law. Each free zone authority has its own employment law and employees are subject to the rules and regulations of their respective free zone authority.

Employees are under a contract with the respective free zone authority. The provisions set out in the employment contract must be in accordance with the Labour Law.

Moreover, free zone employees are sponsored by the respective free zone authority and not by their employer.

Domestic Workers

In September 2017, H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE approved Federal Law No. 10 of 2017 on support service workers. The law, also known as Domestic Labour Law offers protection to workers. Prior to this law, the matters of domestic workers were under the purview of Ministry of Interior. However, now they are under the purview of Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

Who are domestic workers?

The domestic law applies to the following 19 service work occupations:

1. housemaid

2. private sailor

3. watchman and security guard

4. household shepherd

5. family chauffeur

6. parking valet workers

7. household horse groomer

8. household falcon care-taker and trainer

9. domestic labourer

10. housekeeper

11. private coach

12. private teacher

13. babysitter/nanny

14. household farmer

15. gardener

16. private nurse

17. private PRO

18. private agriculture engineer

19. cook.

Safety, Health and Social Care of Workers

Every employer is required to provide their employees with suitable means of protection against occupational hazards, such as injury and disease, which may be contracted during work. Employees must be informed of these dangers and instructions for minimizing such work place hazards are to be displayed in a permanent and prominent place at every work site.

Employers who employ staff in remote areas not serviced by public transportation are obligated to provide basic services for their employees at the expense of the business.

Disciplinary Rules

The disciplinary code provides penalties which an employer may impose upon his employees:

1. Warning

2. Fine

3. Suspension from work with reduced pay for a period not exceeding ten days.

4. Forfeiture of deferment of periodic increment in establishments where such increments system is applied.

5. Forfeiture or deferment of promotion in establishments where promotion system is applied.

6. Dismissal from service but reserving right to end of service benefits.

7. Dismissal from service together with forfeiture of all or part of the benefits, provided that penalties shall not be imposed for reasons other than those specifically prescribed in Article 120 of this Law.

No disciplinary action, however, shall be taken against an employee if the offenses were committed outside of the workplace as long as the misdeed was not directly related to work or the employer. Furthermore, only one punishment shall be imposed for a single violation which cannot be accompanied with a deduction of part of the employee’s wages. All of the violations must be presented to the employee in writing then recorded with a statement of the employee’s defense, if given, and documented with the punishment imposed.

Termination of Employment Contract

Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 grants both employers and employees the right to terminate the employment contract, should sufficient notice be given, and the circumstances fall within those defined by the Ministry of Labour. Additionally, contracts may be terminated without notice under specific cases stated in Article 120 and Article 121 such as failure by either party to fulfill their contract obligations or if harm has been done by one party to the other.

The death of the employer does not constitute the termination of a labor contract unless the contract is directly related to him personally. However, should the employee suffer total disability after their employment begins, the contract may be terminated. Partial disability does not constitute the termination of an employment contract if the employee is able to perform other work that suits their health. If the employee requests, the employer should transfer them to other work with wages equal to those paid for similar work.

Should the form of the establishment or its legal position change, Article 126 protects employees by stating that any contract valid during the time of the change shall remain valid and the service considered continuous. The previous and new employers will be jointly liable in executing the obligations relating to the contract for a period of six months; once this period has lapsed, the new employer takes sole responsibility of the contract.

Repatriation of an Employee

Expenses for repatriation of an employee to his place of origin, or other agreed place as documented in the employment contract, are the responsibility of the employer as long as the employee isn’t responsible for terminating the contract.

Employment Ban

Bans of employment, labor, and work permits can be enforced under certain circumstances.

Applications for permits will be automatically rejected for any person facing a ban. Under certain circumstances, the ban may be lifted. Additionally, some labor industries and employment situations are exempt from the employment ban, including UAE nationals, expatriates switching to government jobs, those working for an oil company, and some skilled laborers.

End of Service Gratuity

Any employee who has completed one year or more of continuous service is entitled to the end of service remuneration at the conclusion of their employment. Only paid days of work are included when computing the period of service. The remuneration is as follows:

1. Twenty one days pay for each year of the first five years of service.

2. Thirty days pay for each additional year. However, the entire total remuneration shall not exceed two years pay.

End of service pay will be prorated for fractions of the year as long as the employee has completed at least one year of continuous service.

Unlimited period contracts vary, however, with employees who have completed at least one year of work but less than three years receiving one third of the end of service gratuity. Two thirds of the end of service pay will be paid for three years of service but less than five years, and full end of service gratuity will be paid for five complete years of labor.

End of service is calculated based on the last wage in which the employee was entitled for employees who are paid monthly, weekly, or daily. For employees who are paid per piece, the end of service gratuity will be based on their daily average.

Payment is calculated based on basic wage excluding any allowances given to the laborer of any kind. The employer may use the employee’s end of service remuneration to deduct any amounts that are due to the employer or company. Additionally, Article 139 states the circumstances under which an employee will forfeit their end of service remuneration.

Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases

If an employee contracts any of the occupational injuries or diseases listed under Schedule 1 or Schedule 2, it is the responsibility of the employer to provide treatment, notify the required parties, and properly document the incident.

If the ailment prevents the worker from performing their work, the employer must pay an allowance set out by Article 145. Should the employee remain permanently disabled from the injury or disease, compensation will be provided accordingly to the worker based on the percentages detailed in Schedule 2 with the calculations made by the relevant authorities when assessing a worker’s level of disability.

If the ailment ends in the death of the worker, family members shall be entitled to compensation for a period of 24 months that is equal to the last basic pay earned by the employee prior to their death, provided that the amount of compensation is at least eighteen thousand Dirhams and not more than thirty five thousand Dirhams.

Should it be proven that the employee intentionally injured himself, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or was disobeying safety ordinances at the time of the incident, the employee is not entitled to compensation of any kind.

Annual leave/sick leave/maternity leave

Annual Leave : For every year of service, an employee is entitled to, an annual leave of not less than two days for every month, provided, his service is more than six months and less than a year. Thereafter 30 days annually if his service exceeds one year. At the end of the service, the employee is entitled to an annual leave for the fraction of the last year, he spent in service. During the employee's annual leave, he/she will be paid basic wage plus housing allowance, if applicable, along with any other allowances, which he receives during normal working month.

Although an employee can decide on when he/she wishes to take the annual leave, ultimately, the date of commencement of annual leave can be determined by the employer at his discretion, and he may decide to divide the leave into two parts at the most. However, if the employee does not reporty to duty immediately after expiry of his vacation, he shall be deprived of his pay for the period of absence commencing form the day after which the leave has expired.

Sick Leave: The employee will have to report to the employer any illness or injury that prevents his from working, within maximum of two working days. The employee may not be entitled for any sick leave during the probation period. Following a three month period of continuous service following the probation period, the employee entitled to full wage during first 15 days of sick leave, half wage during next 30 days, and without pay for any following period. Work staff will no longer be able to present predated sick leave certificates to employers, as per the latest rule by Dubai Health Authority. Predated sick leave for three consecutive days or more will not be issued. This implies sick leaves can only be given on the same day the patient visits the medical facilities, and not for previous days. The DHA has urged physicians and those concerned in public and private medical facilities to abide by this new decision, and refrain from giving patients predated sick leaves.

Maternity Leave: As per the latest Decree No.14 of 2017, issued by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, any full-time or part-time employee in a permanent position is eligible for 90 days of maternity leave from the date of delivery. The employee can also apply to begin her maternity leave 30 days prior to her due date on the condition that the leave is taken continuously. Moreover, the employee can combine maternity leave, with regular annual leave and leave without pay, for a maximum of 120 days.

The decree also states that an employee who has suffered a miscarriage before the 24th week of her pregnancy can take sick leave based on a duly approved medical report. If the employee had a stillbirth or miscarriage after 24th week, she is eligible for 60 days of maternity leave, on submission of an approved medical report.

The decree aims to promote a balance between career and family, support the rights of working women, and provide legal framework for improving gender balance, and is effective 1st March this year.

During the maternity leave and childcare period, the employee will receive only her basic monthly salary, with weekends and official holidays considered part of the maternity leave and childcare.

Collective Labor Disputes

Should a dispute occur between the employer and one or more employees and fail to be settled between them, the workers should submit their complaint or claim in writing to both the employer and the Labour Department. The employer shall then reply to both the employee as well as the Labour Department within seven working days. If the employer does not reply within the set period, the Labour Department will mediate a settlement.

Labor Inspection

Labor inspections are carried out by specialized inspectors affiliated with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to ensure that the work place is compliant with all laws stated in Federal Law No. 8 of 1980. The inspector may require the establishment to make alterations to the facilities if they are found to be insufficient or dangerous.


Article 181 defines the potential penalties which are imprisonment for up to six months and a fine between three thousand Dirham and ten thousand Dirham for any person who violates the obligatory provisions of the Law.

Immigration and Visas

All companies looking to employ a foreign worker must first register with the General Directorate of Residence and Foreigners Affairs – Abu Dhabi (GDRFA) as well as the Ministry of Labour who will issue an Immigration Establishment Card. Once granted, the company has the ability to apply for an Employment Visa or Permit for the foreign national who wishes to work for the company, allowing the holder to enter the UAE on an Entry Permit Visa for two months from the date of issue. After the employee enters the country on the basis of the employment visa, a medical clearance report will need to be completed which is arranged by the sponsoring company; the company should also complete the formalities of residence stamping for the employee. After successful clearance, the employee will be issued a two year visa after which the employer will apply for a Labor Card which allows the employee to commence employment.

The employer should take on the costs of hiring the new employee.

Sponsoring Family

Employees are allowed to sponsor their family provided that they earn a minimum of 3,000 AED per month; however, if the employer does not provide accommodation, the employee must earn at least 4,000 AED per month.

Entitled Benefits

The following benefits are required to be provided by the employer to the employee:

  • Basic salary
  • Repatriation to your country of origin once your employment contract has been completed
  • End of Service Gratuity
  • Standard leaves
  • workers in farms or pastures with the exception of persons working in agricultural institutions processing the products thereof or the persons permanently operating or repairing mechanical machines required for agriculture.
  • Annual leave for employees who have completed six months of work but less than one year receive two paid days per month of annual leave. Employees who have completed at least one full year receive thirty days of paid leave per year.
  • Full paid sick leave for the first fifteen days and half pay for the next thirty days that can be redeemed after the three months employment probation period has ended. Employers have the right to ask for a medical certificate for the period of sick leave.
  • Holidays: one day for Hijri New Year’s Day, one day for Gregorian New Year’s Day, two days for Eid Al Fitr (end of Ramadan), three days for Eid Al Adha and Waqf, one day for the Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday, one day for Isra and Al Miraj, and one day for National Day.
  • Muslim employees are entitled to a Hajj pilgrimage leave once during their employment. The unpaid leave may last for up to thirty days.

Labor Unions

Establishing any form of labor union or trade union is not permitted in the UAE.

Health Insurance

Currently, only two Emirates mandate employer provided health insurance coverage, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, . Although the coverage is required by law in Dubai, the Dubai Health Authority has had trouble regulating the system. Abu Dhabi strictly enforces the sponsored medical insurance system, with the Abu Dhabi Health Authority fining companies 300 AED per employee to establishments that do not comply with the mandatory coverage.