Continuing its push to increase the employment of nationals (Emiratisation), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently enhanced existing employment protections, including against dismissal. The UAE’s policy objective — Vision 2021 — aims to have 50% of the UAE national workforce employed in the private sector by 2021.
Protections Against Termination
Nationals must have a work permit and be hired for a minimum two-year employment contract and may only be terminated in limited circumstances. Termination is unlawful if:
- It isn’t based on one of the valid reasons listed in the labor relations law.
- A non-national employee is performing the same duties as the national whose service is terminated, or the objective was replacing the employee with a non-national in the same job — unless the reason for the termination is deemed “acceptable” by the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation (MOHRE).
- A national is terminated for reasons completely unrelated to the job, especially for whistleblowing.
- The employer fails to conduct an exit interview or doesn’t follow the labor relations rules regarding valid termination.
The MOHRE may set up a mediation meeting to determine whether a termination is justified. Unlawful dismissal may result in the MOHRE referring the dispute to the Labour Court, which could result in reinstatement and/or suspension of new work permits for up to six months. A financial penalty of AED 20,000 per violation can also be imposed in the following circumstances:
- The employer fails to comply with the decree.
- A court rules that the national is “abusively terminated,” and the employer refuses to reinstate.
- The employer fails to pay the required pension contributions.
- The employer is “not earnest regarding Emiritisation,” based on reports from onsite visits.