Working in the private sector
Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 also known as the Labour Law as amended governs the labour rights of employees in the private sector.
The 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.
Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, known before as Ministry of Labour is responsible for overseeing the employer-employee relations and maintaining labour rights for the private sector.
Laws and regulations
Read the laws and regulations that govern the private sector employment in the UAE.
Labour law – key provisions
Here are some of the key provisions of the Labour Law:
- working hours
- official leaves and vacations
- wages Protection System (WPS)
- end of service benefits
- safety at work place
Article 65 of the UAE Labour Law identifies the normal working hours for the private sector as 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week.
The working hours may be increased to 9 hours a day for businesses, hotels and cafes after approval from MoHRE.
Government entities are not governed by the Labour Law and they operate for 7 hours daily.
Working for more than 7 hours a day is prohibited in arduous or unhealthy works and industries.
Normal working hours are reduced by two hours daily during the holy month of Ramadan.
An overtime is considered if the nature of job demands working beyond normal working hours and it will entitle the employee for a pay equal to normal working hours' remuneration plus 25 per cent of that pay. It could increase to 50 per cent if overtime is done between 9 pm and 4 am.
Official leaves and vacations
Friday is the official weekend for all workers, except for daily wage workers. If circumstances require an employee to work overtime on that day, he will be entitled for regular working hours' pay, plus an increase of not less than 50 per cent of that amount.
Employees are entitled for paid leave on the following public holidays:
- Hijri New Year - 1 day
- Gregorian New Year - 1 day
- Eid Al Fitr - 2 days
- Waqfa day and Eid Al Adha - 3 days
- Prophet Mohammed's birthday - 1 day
- Isra and Miraj or the Ascension Day - 1 day
- Martyr's Day - 1 day
- National Day - 1 day
In addition, employees are entitled to an annual leave of:
- 2 days per month, if they have completed six months of service but not one year
- 30 days, if they have completed one year of service.
Employees are entitled to a sick leave of not more than 90 days per year subject to conditions stipulated in the law. They will receive full pay for the first 15 days, half pay for the next 30 days and no pay for the rest 45 days.
Employees may be granted a special leave without pay, which may not exceed 30 days for the performance of Hajj once throughout his service. This is granted only once during his years of employment.
Employees are not entitled to any paid sick leave during the probation period.
Wages Protection System (WPS)
The Wages Protection System (WPS) is an important step to ensure and protecting the rights of workers, and to establish trust between organisations and their employees. Under this system, salaries of employees will be transferred to their accounts in banks or financial institutions, which are authorised by Central Bank of the UAE to provide the service. For any concerns or complaints regarding the salary, employees can contact the MoHRE or lodge a complaint through eNetwasal.
As per Ministerial Decree No. 739 of 2016 Concerning the Protection of Wages, all establishments registered in the Ministry shall pay the wages of its employees on the due date through the WPS.
End of service benefits
Read about this in the pensions and end of service benefits' page.
Safety and health at work place
Articles 91 to 101 of the UAE Labour Law specify the provisions for employees' safety and health care.
Reduction in working hours
Construction and industrial workers are not permitted to work during the hottest hours of the day during the summer. Any firm found to have staff working during the designated break time would be fined AED 5,000 per worker up to a maximum of AED 50,000.
Also, employees are entitled to work 2 hours less every day during the holy month of Ramadan.
Protection against injuries
Employers should provide their employees with suitable means of protection against injuries and dangers such as a fire which may result from the use of machinery and other work equipment and against occupational diseases which may be contacted during work.
Employers shall display in a permanent and visible place at the work site, detailed instructions regarding the means of preventing fire and the means through which employees can protect themselves from hazards to which they might be exposed during work. These instructions shall be in Arabic, and if necessary another language understood by the employee.
Employers must keep a first aid kit or kits containing medicines, bandages and other first aid material readily available.
At least once every six months, employers have to assign at least one physician to examine thoroughly the employees who are exposed to the possibility of contracting one of the occupational diseases. The results of such examination should be recorded on the employees' files.
Prohibition of alcohol on work premises
No employer may bring or allow others to bring any kind of alcoholic drinks for consumption on work premises.
Working in remote areas
Every employer who employs staff in remote areas that are not served by public means of transportation must provide his employees with the following services:
- suitable transportation
- suitable accommodation
- suitable drinking water
- suitable food
- first aid services
- means of entertainment and sports activities.
All the above services apart from food material will be on the employer's account.
In case of an injury or death at workplace
According to Article 149 of the Labour Law, the compensation for death at work is equal to the basic wage of the worker for 24 months, provided that the amount of compensation is not less than AED 18,000 or more than AED 35,000.
The amount of compensation is calculated on the basis of the last wage received by the worker prior to his death.
Read about what to do in case of an injury or death at workplace.
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.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai applies compulsory insurance coverage for all employees: nationals and expatriate residents. Read about
insurance in the health section.
Read about the provisions for recruiting UAE nationals in the private sector.
There is no minimum salary stipulated in the UAE Labour Law, however it broadly mentions that salaries must cover basic needs of the employees.
Article 63 of the Labour law mentions that the minimum wage and cost of living index is determined either in general or for a particular area or a particular profession by virtue of a decree and consent of the Cabinet.
Workers’ rights international agreements
Read about major international conventions ratified by the UAE.
Emiratisation laws and policies in the private sector
The UAE is implementing a strategic plan to promote Emiratisation in the private sector. Read about these laws:
Read some resources which pertain to private sector employment on the website of Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation:
Check templates of job offers and contract services on the website of Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.