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December 13, 2021

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The United Arab Emirates recently introduced the Federal Decree-Law no. 33 of 2021 on the ‘regulations of labour relations’, which would be in effect from 2nd February 2022 (“new decree law”). The new decree-law aims to bring about more efficiency in the labour functions in the UAE. The rules have been specially formulated to strike a balance between attracting and retention of the best talents and skills, as well as providing an attractive business environment for employers. Thus, to empower both the parties and to ensure heightened participation in pursuing the national development goals.

The UAE also recently announced that all the UAE federal government entities would have a four and a half work week, starting from Monday to Friday, with Fridays being half days. The changes are, however, applicable only to the federal or government staff, and the private employers are not obliged to follow them. However, schools and banking institutions are going ahead to adapt to the new changes. It is therefore expected that many private sector companies will follow suit and adapt to similar timing or might provide more flexible working options, including a work from home routine on certain days.

Mandatory rules concerning work hours:

Article 17 of the new decree states the mandatory rules that are to be legally followed by employers, and these include:

Article 17:

  • The maximum ordinary working hours shall be (8) eight working hours a day or (48) forty-eight working hours a week. The periods spent by the Worker from the place of residence to the Workspace shall not be calculated within the working hours, except for certain categories of workers according to the controls set by the Executive Regulations of this Decree-Law.
  • The Executive Regulations of this Decree-Law shall determine the working hours in the holy month of Ramadan.
  • If the Worker is not a Full-time Worker, the original Employer or any other Employer employing the Worker under the Provisions of this Decree-Law may not require the Worker to work for him more than the hours agreed upon in the Employment Contract, unless with his written consent.

Increased Flexibility:

Article 17 (6) allows for a flexible working plan to be instituted for the employee based on the mutual consensus between the employer and the employee. This is not a mandatory provision and depends on the Employer’s descretion to allow it or not. Article 17 (6), states, If the Worker wants to perform Work remotely, whether inside or outside the UAE and with the consent of the Employer, the Employer may stipulate specific working hours.

The goals have been instituted with the intention to enhance flexibility and sustainability of the UAE’s labour market by ensuring the protection of the parties to, development of, and exception circumstances encountered by, the working relationship that would have an impact thereon. The new decree thus endeavors to strike the right balance between rights and obligations of both the Employer and the employees.


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