UAE’s employee and employer supportive measures to combat COVID-19

David Kambo

27 June, 2020

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The entire world is united and fighting a pandemic that has disrupted lives and locked us inside our homes. Governments all over the world are announcing relief packages to support their citizens and economies; and UAE is no exception. The country is on a mission to contain the crisis and safeguard the lives of citizens and residents and ensure business continuity. Numerous relief packages and initiatives that aim to soften the impact of COVID-19 have been announced by the government of late. Here we will discuss some of the initiatives taken by the government with regards to HR and payroll.

What are the initiatives launched by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE) to support employees and employers?

In March 2020, the ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization issued a series of ministerial Resolutions in response to the outbreak of the Novel Corona Virus. We will look at the impact of the Resolutions in relation to the employers and employees based in UAE.

  • Ministerial Resolution No. 279 of 2020 regarding the employment stability by private sector companies during the period of application of precautionary measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
  • This Resolution was introduced to protect the positions of non-UAE citizens employed by private sector companies during the period of application of COVID-19 precautionary measures issued by the federal government. The Resolution confirmed the measures already regulated via the Federal law No. 8 of 1980 and introduced new measures to be adopted by employers who are affected by the precautionary measures taken by the government. Under this Resolution, employers can take the following procedures.

    • Implement the Telecommuting system (Work from home procedures)
    • Granting Paid leave
    • Granting leave without pay
    • Temporary reduction of wages during the period referred to
    • Permanent reduction of wages

    Paid Leave 

    The Resolution grants the employer the entitlement to ask employees to use their annual leaves in accordance with the provisions of the UAE labor law.

    Unpaid leave

    With employee written consent, the Resolution grants employers the right to place employees on unpaid leave. Unpaid leaves are not provisioned in the UAE labor law. The Resolution does not mention the maximum period the employer can issue the unpaid leave.

    Temporary salary deductions

    Companies that are willing to temporarily reduce the wages of non-citizen employees must adhere to the following measures:

    1. Amend the labor contract between the two parties by preparing a “temporary additional appendix” according to a form issued by the MOHRE provided it expires with the period of expiry of the contract or at the expiry of the Resolution, whichever comes earlier.
    2. Renew the appendix referred above subject to approval by both parties.
    3. Prepare the appendix referred above in two copies, with each party keeping a copy and the employer shall submit to the ministry whenever required to.

    Permanent salary reduction

    The Resolution allows the employer and the employee to agree on permanent salary reduction. Employers who wish to permanently reduce employee salaries are obligated to apply on the “Employment contract data modification” service to obtain the approval of the ministry in accordance with the procedures in force.

    Redundancies

    The Resolution makes provisions for redundancy. The Resolution provides that the employer shall continue to provide housing allowance and other entitlements to the employees until they are able to exit the country or are employed by another company. Companies that are not able to retain their employees due to the crisis need to register their redundant workforce in the ‘Virtual Labor Market System’. This will enable other firms to employ the workers based on their requirements.

    Companies willing to hire during this period shall present their job openings at the virtual labor market system, search for the available labor database, and choose the ones available to them. The authorization to hire such employees can then be obtained electronically for the necessary work permit, transfer to a new employer, temporary work permit, or part-time work permit.

    Wages Protection System

    MOHRE has also instructed private sector companies to pay their employees’ wages on time via the Wages Protection System. “We stress on the importance of the private sector’s commitment to pay their employee wages through the wage protection system, documented per the agreement with the worker, & early leave included in the temporary contract available on smart app & website,” said the ministry.

  • Ministerial Resolution No. 280 of 2020 concerning the creation of a committee for considering the stabilization of citizen conditions in the private sector.
  • The Resolution No. 280 aims to protect UAE nationals working in the private sector through the creation of a committee assigned with the following mandate:

    • Introduce support packages that ensure the presence of UAE nationals in the labor market
    • Supervise and ensure the implementation of Ministerial Resolution No. 212 of 2017 regulating the work of citizens in the private sector
    • Review the termination cases as provided from Tawteen
    • Provide recommendations for termination cases and submit them to the minister
  • Ministerial Resolution No. 281 of 2020 concerning the temporary guide regulating the remote work in private establishments during the period of application of precautionary measures to stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Resolution No. 281 offers guidelines and regulations concerning the remote work in the private sector affected by the precautionary measures taken by the government to help stop the spread on COVID-19.

    Employers are required to provide the technical equipment and mechanisms necessary for the employee to perform their work remotely.

    Are employees granted permission to work from home?

    Under this Resolution, employees have certain obligations that they will be required to follow including:

    • Perform tasks as per the specified timelines
    • Obtain employer approval to work remotely
    • Return to work upon request
    • Maintain confidentiality of information, documents, and papers
    • Be contactable on phone or email

    The option to work from home will be granted to employees whose physical presence is not required at work. Priority will be given to:

    • pregnant women
    • those aged 55 and above
    • people of determination
    • people suffering from respiratory or chronic diseases; and
    • mothers of children in grade 9 and below

    These initiatives and packages will help in reducing the impact of the current global economic situation on businesses & people and make recovery post-COVID 19 easier. These are legislative steps taken by MOHRE as part of wider measures taken by the federal government to help support businesses in the private sector that are affected by the precautionary measures. With time, the precautionary measures will ease as the spread of COVID-19 is contained but we cannot predict when that will happen, neither can we predict if more ministerial Resolutions will be published.

 

 

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