The UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (the “Ministry”) has recently issued the following three Ministerial Decisions:
- Decision No. 279 of 2020, the title of which translates as “Decision concerning employment stability in private sector establishments during the implementation period of the precautionary measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus” (“Decision 279”).
- Decision No. 280 of 2020, the title of which translates as “Decision on creating a committee observing the stability of UAE nationals in the private sector” (“Decision 280”).
- Decision No. 281 of 2020, the title of which translates as “Decision regulating remote working in private sector establishments during the period of precautionary measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus” (“Decision 281”).
Decision 279 applies to all companies and establishments registered with the Ministry, and was issued to “safeguard both employers and non-UAE national (expatriate) employees during the period in which precautionary measures are being taken”. This Decision applies only to non-UAE nationals during the implementation period of the precautionary measures referred to in the Decision.
Decision 279 came into effect the day it was issued (i.e. March 26, 2020).
A summary of this Decision can be found at: Employment update in the United Arab Emirates.
Decision 280 came into effect the day it was issued (i.e. March 26, 2020).
Article 1 of Decision 280 provides for the creation of a Committee to observe the stability of working UAE nationals in the private sector (the “Committee”) within the Ministry. The Committee is comprised of nine members, with Mr Nasser Abdallah Bin Kherbash appointed as its Chairman.
Article 2 of Decision 280 tasks the Committee with, among other things:
- Developing support packages to preserve the employment of UAE nationals in the private sector.
- Monitoring and supervising the procedures for supporting and protecting UAE nationals, set out in Ministerial Decision No. 212 of 2018.
- Reviewing cases where UAE nationals are terminated from work in the private sector.
- Making recommendations in cases of terminated UAE nationals and proposing a support package aimed at reinstating a terminated local employee with his/her employer, or finding alternative employment.
Article 4 of Decision 280 requires the Ministry’s organisational units to support the Committee’s work and objectives.
Decision 281 also came into effect the day it was issued (March 29, 2020). The Decision includes an annex titled “Temporary guide regulating remote working in private establishments”, which seeks to ensure continuity of business during the period of precautionary measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (the “Guide”).
Decision 281 applies to all companies and establishments operating in the private sector, with some exceptions, as set out below.
Limiting footfall of employees and customers
Article 1 of Decision 281 requires companies operating in the private sector to limit the number of employees physically coming to work to the maximum extent possible and necessary and, in any case, to no more than 30 percent of the total number of employees. Companies are also required to limit the number of customers entering their business premises by limiting seating capacity to 30 percent of capacity, and to maintain a safe distance between customers in attendance. The Decision does not, however, define what constitutes a “safe distance”.
Exempt from the requirements of Article 1 are companies and establishments that operate in, and conduct business related to infrastructure projects, catering, telecommunications, power, health, education, financial services, food processing, hospitality, health supplies, manufacturing, and cleaning services.
Article 2 of Decision 281 requires companies and establishments operating in the private sector to take precautionary measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, including:
- Providing screening points at the entrances of business premises (and worker accommodation) to take employees’ temperature readings and check for other symptoms of the novel coronavirus twice daily (once in the morning and once in the evening).
- Prohibiting employees who show symptoms of having the novel coronavirus from entering the workplace (or returning to accommodation), and referring them to the health authorities.
- In cases where companies arrange for employees to travel to and from the workplace and provide company accommodation, limiting the number of employees travelling in a vehicle to 25 percent of the vehicle’s seating capacity, and ensuring that employees maintain a safe distance between each other.
- Prohibiting cultural, sporting, and social gatherings at worker accommodation.
Article 4 of Decision 281 requires companies and establishments in the private sector to apply remote working systems to “all workers whose jobs do not require a physical presence at workplaces”, with priority given to pregnant women, workers over the age of 55, those with disabilities, employees with chronic or respiratory illnesses, and mothers of children in Grade 9 and below.
Obligations of employers and employees
The Guide requires employers to:
- Provide the tools and systems required for employees to be able to work remotely, including using online and smart platforms.
- Identify standards of competence and productivity for employees working remotely, including timeframes for completion of tasks assigned to employees.
- Communicate required working hours, including “flex-time” during the day.
- Ensure privacy and data confidentiality and regulate login credentials.
- Provide video conference platforms.
The Guide requires employees working remotely to:
- Obtain the employer’s approval for remote working.
- Report to the workplace when requested to do so by the employer.
- Perform tasks within specified timeframes.
- Be reachable by mobile phone and/or email.
- Maintain confidentiality of documents and information related to their employment.
Early Leave ‘Initiative’
On Sunday, April 5, the Ministry published on its website the “Procedures for enabling foreign labour to leave the country and return home” (the “Initiative”). The Ministry website states that the Initiative was issued “further” to Decision 279, although Decision 279 does not make any reference to the Initiative in and of itself.
The Initiative provides that employers and expatriate employees can agree, at the employee’s request, to an unpaid period of leave during which the employee may travel to his/her home country at the expense of the employer. The contractual relationship between the employer and employee is not severed during the time the employee is in his/her home country.
We understand from informal discussions with relevant officials at the Ministry, that there have already been a number of requests from employees under the Initiative.