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    Decoding HR Policies in UAE

    July 8, 2024

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    HR Policies in UAE
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    HR Policies

    Deciphering HR Policies in the UAE involves unraveling a complex infrastructure that governsemployer-employee relationships in this diverse and dynamic business environment. Organizations in the UAE must comply with numerous regulations, advice, and norms included in HR policies to stay legal, build a healthy internal environment, and provide fair treatment to their agents.

    Therefore, knowledge of HR policies is important for businesses and employees. From a business’s point of view, such knowledge guarantees compliance with regulations, fair treatment of employees, and a good image. Employees’ familiarity with reasonable norms allows them to know their rights, get proper treatment, compensation, and the right to protest, and as a result, work relationships stay healthy and productive.

    In this blog, we will explore the intricacies of HR policies in the UAE, delving deeper into key areas such as recruitment practices, employee benefits, labor laws, and regulations.

    Overview of HR Policies in the UAE

    Labor Laws and Regulations 

    Businesses and employees in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) must understand labor laws and regulations crucially. These laws govern various aspects of employment.

    Key Provisions Related to Employment Contracts, Working Hours, and Leaves:

    1. Employment Contracts:

    An agreement of collaboration is only complete if it has definite clauses and terms. Indeed, all of these should be described in detail by the partners. According to the recently issued Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021 in the private sector, fixed-term contracts must be the rule. This kind of agreement presupposes a definite period of collaboration, which can be prolonged or extended. In the case of public sector employees, there can be either full-time, part-time, temporary, or special contracts. The first one is the most widespread type of agreement, while the part-time and temporary contracts are usually designed for work hours requirements and project period of completion. The last type is employed for high-ranking levels.

    2. Working Hours:

    Working hours differ between the public and private sectors:

    Private Sector: 

    Employees work 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week. During Ramadan, working hours are reduced by 2 hours. Overtime is permissible but should not exceed two hours per day, with additional pay rates for overtime work, especially during late hours.

    Public Sector: 

    Working hours in federal government entities typically follow a four-and-a-half-day workweek, with specific timings and weekends varying across emirates.

    3. Leaves and Holidays:

    Leaves and holidays in the UAE are structured to offer employees sufficient time off for any purpose and, at the same time, keep productivity and work-life balance. Thus, hired workers in the private sector are provided annual leave after six months of service. 

    Additionally, the leaves expand with the duration of the employment as people are guaranteed 30 days of fully paid annual holidays after completing one year of service. Meanwhile, sick leaves are offered according to varied medical facilities, and the pay ranges from 90% for the first day in the case of a valid medical certificate based on a free zone to 100% for three consecutive days on a weekly salary in a non-free. As for the public holidays, both private and public sectors have off-days for the national and religious holidays.

     The public holidays include the Gregorian New Year and the Muslim festivals of Eid Al Fitr, Arafat Day, Eid Al Adah, Islamic New Year, Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, and National Day.

    4. Gratuity

    Regarding gratuity, the UAE uses the formula listed below. This is one of the countries that ensure that employees receive fair compensation once they terminate the employment contract. All eligible employees who have served for one year or more are entitled to 21 days of wage with every year worked. A proper formula must be used to calculate the earned amount of gratuity.

    In this case, H is the total number of hours worked per year, and N is the number of months of service. Such a method ensures that calculating gratuity is standardized for different types of employment contracts.

    A. Recruitment and Hiring Practices

    In the dynamic landscape of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), recruitment and hiring practices are pivotal in shaping the workforce.

    Recruitment Process and Best Practices:

    A few significant steps should be implemented to hire an employee in the UAE. First, it is obligatory to follow specific paperwork and labor regulations. The predominant documents necessary for hiring foreign workers in the country are the Establishment Labor Card and the Establishment Immigration Card. They can be obtained online from the UAE Ministry of Law.

    The official job offer with a private company is among the primary requirements. Both sides should prepare a signed employment contract highlighting the terms, conditions, and benefits associated with the workplace. Employees should be aware of the maximum hours of work, vacation time, maternity leave, and sick leave as special benefits in the UAE.

    Once both parties sign the offer letter, it becomes a binding agreement, and any changes or replacements to its provisions require mutual agreement.

    Employee Onboarding Procedures:

    Effective employee onboarding is crucial in incorporating a new hire into the organizational culture and ensuring a smooth transition. In the UAE, onboarding procedures usually include orientation, training, and activities to promote understanding the company’s policies and procedures. 

    Employers must provide their employees with the most important documents, such as work contract, work permit, and work visa, within 14 days of their arrival in the country or change of status. Work contracts must correspond to UAE labor laws and should be written in English, Arabic, or an approved employee’s language.

    Additionally, employers must provide government health cards for employees, although private health insurance is not mandatory.

    Visa and Work Permit Requirements for Expatriate Employees:

    Obtaining a valid UAE work visa for expatriate employees involves several steps and requirements. Employers must first secure a confirmed job offer from a legally established business in Dubai before applying for an entry permit and residence visa on the employee's behalf at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MoHRE).

    Expatriate employees must possess a passport valid for at least six months and undergo medical exams at certified health centers in the UAE to test for infectious diseases such as HIV or TB. Academic certifications outside the UAE also require verification by the respective embassy or consulate and the state Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    B. Employee Benefits and Compensation

    Attracting and retaining talent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hinges on Employee Benefits and Compensation.

    Understanding Salary Structures and Payment Regulations:

    Wage payment in the UAE is the employer's responsibility and should be stipulated clearly in the employment contract. The Wages Protection System regulates employers in the private sector as having to make their employees’ wage payments through authorized banks or financial institutions. Non-compliance with the requirements of this job order will result in fines and penalties.

    Salaries have to be paid Form the first of the month following the period stipulated in the contract. The employer has to pay employees at least once a month unless the period is specifically provided for in the contract. If the person does not get payment during the first 15 days of the month, the employer is considered to breach the contract, but an agreement between parties can reduce the period.

    Employee Benefits and Entitlements:

    By law, employers in the UAE are required to provide certain employee benefits. These include:

    1. Health Insurance: 

    Employers must offer employees minimum healthcare coverage, with premiums not deducted from their salary. Dependents must also have adequate health insurance coverage.

    2. Insurance System for Workers: 

    The UAE's Taa-meen insurance system provides an alternative to employers holding a bank guarantee of AED 3,000 per worker. Employers can opt for a bank guarantee or purchase a worker insurance policy.

    3. Unemployment Insurance Scheme: 

    Emiratis and residents working in federal and private sectors are covered by an unemployment insurance scheme, offering financial support in case of job loss due to employer termination.

    Social Security Contributions and Pensions:

    End-of-service benefits are significant for employees in the private sector:

    1. UAE Nationals: 

    Full-time Emirati employees are eligible for pensions and end-of-service benefits. Employers must register eligible employees with the General Pension and Social Security Authority within 30 days of employment.

    2. Foreign Workers: 

    Foreign workers are entitled to gratuity based on completed years of service and last wage or basic salary. Deductions may be made for amounts owed to the employer, and these entitlements should be paid within 14 days of contract termination.

    C. Employee Performance and Development Strategies

    Understanding the intricacies of employee performance and development is crucial for businesses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as they form the backbone of a thriving workforce.

    Performance Evaluation Systems:

    In the UAE, performance appraisals are recommended to be conducted at least once a year. However, more frequent evaluations, such as semi-annual or quarterly appraisals, are beneficial to ensure optimal results and employee engagement.

    Common challenges in the performance appraisal process in the UAE include non-customized systems for different roles, outdated technologies, and misalignment with organizational objectives.

    The employee performance management system (EPMS) cycle typically runs from January to December, with annual reports as the basis for final performance evaluations. Interim or mid-year reviews are conducted throughout the year to ensure ongoing alignment with goals and provide timely feedback for improvement.

    Training and Development Opportunities:

    Training and development are vital in nurturing employee skills, enhancing performance, and fostering career growth. Employers in the UAE should provide ample opportunities for employees to participate in training programs, workshops, and skill development initiatives.

    Collaborative goal-setting between managers and employees is essential to identify training needs and establish performance measurement criteria.

    Employee Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures:

    Employee disciplinary and grievance procedures are essential components of HR policies in the UAE. Clear policies and procedures should be in place to address disciplinary issues fairly and transparently. This includes outlining expectations, consequences for misconduct, and steps for resolution.

    Similarly, grievance procedures enable employees to raise concerns or complaints regarding work-related issues. Ensure that employers deal with grievances promptly and confidentially to maintain a positive work environment.

    Compliance and Legal Obligations

    Navigating a complex legal landscape, particularly concerning labor laws, is essential for businesses operating in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    A. Maintaining Compliance with Labor Laws

    Let's explore the key business legal obligations and penalties for non-compliance with labor laws.

    Key Legal Obligations for Businesses:

    Businesses in the UAE must adhere to several key legal obligations outlined in the Federal Decree Laws governing labor relations. These obligations include but are not limited to:

    1. Employment Contracts: 

    Businesses must have written employment contracts with their employees outlining terms and conditions of employment, such as working hours, wages, leave entitlements, and termination procedures.

    2. Working Hours and Rest Periods: 

    Employers must comply with the stipulated working hours and rest periods per labor laws. For example, the standard working hours are eight hours per day, with overtime pay for additional hours worked.

    3. Wages and Salary Payments: 

    Businesses are obligated to pay their employees' salaries through the Wages Protection System (WPS) and ensure timely payment of wages as per the agreed terms in the employment contract.

    4. Health and Safety: 

    Employers must provide a safe working environment for their employees, comply with health and safety regulations, and take necessary measures to prevent workplace accidents or hazards.

    Penalties for Non-Compliance:

    Non-compliance with labor laws in the UAE can result in significant penalties, fines, and legal consequences for businesses. Some of the penalties for non-compliance include:

    1. Financial Penalties: 

    Employers who fail to meet their legal obligations, such as late payment of wages or denying employees their entitled benefits, may face financial penalties imposed by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MoHRE).

    2. Ban on Recruitment: 

    In serious cases of non-compliance, businesses may face a ban on recruiting new employees, either temporarily or permanently, depending on the severity of the violation.

    3. Legal Disputes: 

    Non-compliance with labor laws can lead to legal disputes, including employee grievances, lawsuits, and arbitration cases, resulting in reputational damage and financial liabilities for businesses.

    4. Loss of License: 

    In extreme cases of repeated or severe non-compliance, businesses risk losing their operating license, which can have far-reaching consequences for their business continuity and reputation.

    5. Blacklisting: 

    Employers found guilty of serious labor law violations may be blacklisted, impacting their ability to conduct business and engage in future employment practices within the UAE.

    B. HR Policies and Documentation in the UAE

    In the dynamic landscape of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), employers and employees rely on HR Policies and Documentation as fundamental pillars in the UAE.

    1. Importance of Having Comprehensive HR Policies:

    HR policies act as a roadmap that guides an organization's behavior, expectations, and interactions. In the UAE, having comprehensive HR policies is crucial for several reasons:

    Legal Compliance: 

    HR policies ensure adherence to the legal framework established by the UAE's Labor Law. They define employers' and employees' rights and responsibilities, mitigating legal risks and promoting a harmonious workplace.

    Standardized Practices: 

    Comprehensive HR policies establish consistent practices across the organization, ensuring fairness and equity in decision-making processes related to recruitment, compensation, performance management, and termination.

    Employee Guidance: 

    Clear policies provide employees with guidelines on acceptable conduct, performance expectations, benefits entitlements, and grievance procedures, fostering clarity and reducing misunderstandings.

    2. Documenting HR Policies and Procedures:

    For an organization, it is critical to document HR policies and procedures because they ensure transparency, accountability, and legal compliance. HR policies provide a framework for employers’ and employees’ rights, expectations, and obligations. 

    If an employee has a grievance or a dispute with the employer, this framework helps to find a balance and decide, considering all factors related to the situation. Most importantly, it helps to show or prove that the organization adhered to the UAE legal framework, including the Labor Law.

    3. Ensuring Transparency and Fairness in HR Practices:

    Being transparent and practicing fairness in HR is imperative for any organization. Transparent communication of HR policies helps employees understand the organization's decisions, their contribution and expectations, and the redress available to them in case of grievances or concerns. 

    Furthermore, HR policies must be fair so that everyone, regardless of sex, age, caste, and religion, can access development opportunities. Since an organization’s working environment impacts the performance of its employees, it is only through practicing fairness and transparency that an organization can gain the trust of its workforce and improve its productivity.


    Decoding HR policies in the UAE is crucial for navigating its regulatory landscape. Knowing the labor laws, recruitment practices, benefits, compensation, performance management, compliance, and documentation is essential. Recruitment practices include mandatory steps like posting jobs on MOHRE and obtaining visas. We covered benefits, compensation, and performance reviews, stressing fair practices. Compliance with labor laws, especially taxation and data protection, is essential.

    Are you seeking to streamline HR procedures and automate the setup of an HR structure within your organization? Your search ends here. Darwinbox specializes in identifying crucial positions, defining success metrics, and sourcing top-tier talent to fulfill them. With a track record of serving over 880 enterprises globally, we seamlessly optimize HR functions. Are you eager to witness its efficacy? Schedule a demo now.


    UAE labor laws cover minimum wage, working conditions, and health and safety standards.
    The UAE Labor Law regulates employment contracts in the UAE and must specify terms like job description, salary, and duration.
    Working hours in the UAE typically consist of 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week, with exceptions for certain industries.
    The UAE's gratuity system entitles employees to receive an end-of-service gratuity payment upon completion of their employment contract, which is calculated based on their length of service and final salary.
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