Employment Issues in the UAE during the COVID-19 Crisis
As an employer, the circumstances you find yourself in during these unprecedented times is a rather difficult one. The bottom line is the cash crunch resulting from a drastic and sudden reduction of income compounded with the ongoing obligation of wages of employees.
In a measure to alleviate the plight of the employer and afford protection to non UAE Nationals employed in the private sector, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) has published the new Ministerial Resolution No. 279 of 2020 (Resolution) effective as of 26 March 2020. THINC posted these on LinkedIn in entirety for reference.
The main provisions are summarised as follows:
- The employer has the right to impose the following (upon mutual agreement between employer and employee and in gradual steps):
(i) Work from home (WFH);
(ii) Leave with pay (this would be the use of annual leave);
(ii) Unpaid leave;
(iv) Temporary salary reduction – in this case a “temporary additional supplement” (in a form provided by MOHRE) will need to be added to the MOHRE labour contract which will be valid for a time stipulated on the supplement or until the decision is revoked; and
(v) Permanent salary reduction- in this case the employer has to apply to MOHRE for the labour contract to be amended.
- For the employee who has been made redundant:
(i) he/she must be offered the option of registering their details on the job portal “Virtual Labour Market System” organised by MOHRE which allows him/her to be employed by another company;
(ii) for those who are registered on the Virtual Labour Market System, work permit authorisations (work transfer permit, temporary work permit and part time work permit) may be obtained electronically; and
(iii) employee entitlements (except for basic salary) including the housing entitlement must be continued until the individual exits the UAE or obtains employment in another company (with the necessary authorisation to work) or the repeal of the Resolution, whichever comes earlier.
The government has clearly stated that 80% of the workforce ought to be working from home and only those whose work requires them to be in the office are allowed to go in. It has further imposed precautionary and preventive measures to be taken to ensure the general safety of the employees including a cap of staff allowed to be present at the office with physical distance between the employees being 2 metres and the compulsory use of gloves and masks and twice daily employee temperature checks with mandatory quarantine if temperature is above 38 degrees centigrade in certain fields.
This week onwards a 2-week more intense lockdown has been introduced with stricter terms and permissions required to travel out of home and requiring everyone to WFH unless you are in essential services like food supplies, healthcare, shipping and logistics. The crisis of the global spread of COVID-19 has been hard hitting on every aspect of business and the question remains, how long can UAE businesses survive this new world order we find ourselves in and when is the end in sight? Though times are uncertain, we as businesses will strive to endure for our people .