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UAE authority issues new decision on expat jobs affected by Covid-19


DUBAI – The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) has issued a new rule for expatriates whose work has been affected by the new coronavirus or Covid-19.

The new decision “allows affected employers to take progressive measures in relation to expatriate workers” during the pandemic, said lawyer Barney Almazar of Gulf Law.

Up until this new ruling, the UAE Labour Law has been ambiguous about unpaid leaves and temporary salary reductions, two of the most common cost-cutting measures that companies have taken in an effort to keep businesses afloat during the crisis. Under the UAE law prior to MOHRE’s new directive, the only permissible unpaid leaves were those related to sick leave, maternity leave or pilgrimage leave.

Under the new MOHRE decision, employers are allowed to:

1. Instruct employees to work from home, as applicable
2. Require employees to consume annual/paid leave balances
3. Implement unpaid leaves, in agreement with employee
4. Amend employee contract for temporary salary reduction, in agreement with employee
5. Amend employment contract for permanent reduction in salary, in agreement with employee

For work from home, annual leave

Employers do not need their employee’s consent to let them work from home or to require them to consume their annual leave balance.

For unpaid leaves, salary cuts

For unpaid leaves as well as temporary or permanent salary reduction, employers are required to get the consent of their employee before implementing such measures.

To lawfully implement unpaid leaves and salary cuts, employers must retain an original copy of the amendment of contract and provide the employee an original copy. The amendment of contract must be readily available for inspection by MOHRE.

Employers and employees can agree on the duration of the reduction of salary provided that the amendment shall be considered cancelled once the ministerial decision has been repealed.

For permanent salary reduction, the amended contract must be registered with MOHRE under the Employment Contract Details Amendment

For laid-off employees

Employers are also required to register any laid-off expatriate employee on MOHRE’s Virtual Labor Market to allow them to be recruited by other employers. During this period and until the employee has left the UAE or joined another company, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide housing and other entitlements to the individual, except their salary.

Companies looking to hire expat employees will also need to post their vacancy on the Virtual Labor Market and should follow the work permit hiring procedures implemented by MOHRE.

The ministerial decision will continue to apply as long as precautionary measures are taken in relation to Covid-19 are in place. ICA/Expat Media

Legally Speaking

Question: Is there a rule regarding the provision of accommodation and food to employees who are not working? Do these new directives cover employees who have not yet passed their probation period?

Barney Almazar: The general rule is to apply the terms and conditions of the existing employment contract. If the contract provides for food and accommodation allowance, these must be given, unless the employee has agreed to modify the terms of his or her employment. The new directive applies to both regular and probationary employees.

Question: If I don’t sign the amended contract/agreement for salary reduction will the company terminate me for this reason? Am I still entitled to benefits?

Barney Almazar: If you don’t sign the amendment and if your company cannot maintain you, then they will have to terminate your contract. You will be entitled to full end of service benefits and compensation.

Question: Are redundant employees still entitled to housing allowance until they find a new job?

Barney Almazar: Yes. All benefits and allowances (except salary) must be provided until they have exited the country or get a new sponsor.

Unpaid leave in the UAE: guidelines and what you should know

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