A new federal decree has been implemented for the UAE private sector to amend the existing leave provisions of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Labor Law No. 8 of 1980 to include parental leave. The measure is part of the continuing drive to align private-sector benefits with those available in the public sector in order to increase the private sector’s attractiveness to all workers. The decree also amends equal-pay provisions.
Federal Decree Law No. 6 of 2020 introduces a new Article 74 to the Labor Law to provide for five paid working days of parental leave, to be taken within six months from the birth date of the child. There does not appear to be a service qualification for this benefit. As the decree has amended the Federal Labor Law, it will apply to all employees in the private sector both onshore and in all Free Zones it governs outside of the Dubai International Financial Centre and Abu Dhabi Global Market Free Zones.
We are aware of a debate in the media as to whether the decree will apply equally to male and female employees. It has been noted that the choice of Arabic word used refers to “parental leave” and not specifically to “paternity” leave, which might have been expected given the duration of the leave and its similarity to paternity leave benefits enjoyed elsewhere. Given the debate, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE) may need to issue a clarification on the point. We understand that the UAE Government portal has provided further confirmation to the UAE media that “the parental leave is a paid leave that can be applied for by both mother and father of the baby.”
Previously, the UAE Labor Law did not require private-sector companies to provide any kind of paternity leave to male employees, although some employers in the region, particularly those with a global reach, chose to offer this benefit within their internal company policies.
Female employees currently receive a maternity leave entitlement of 45 days paid leave after a year’s service. Maternity leave is paid at half pay for the first year of service and full pay thereafter. A further period of 100 days unpaid leave exists to support maternity-related illness.
If parental leave also applies to women, the employer will not necessarily be able to require an employee to extend her maternity leave, as the new leave can be taken at any time in the six-month period following childbirth. Practically it may, however, make more sense for the employer to offer an extension of the maternity leave period by five days.
The decree also amends Article 32 of the UAE Labor Law, which contains equal-pay provisions for female employees. Previously Article 32 required an employer to pay a female worker the same wage as a man for undertaking the “same work.” The article has now been amended to include equal pay for work of “equal value” for female counterparts and requests the MOHRE to develop systems to support that evaluation.
We are not aware that Article 32 has been used to any great extent by female employees to seek equal pay through the courts or the MOHRE to date. The current change—if backed by detailed job-evaluation procedures overseen by the MOHRE, such as those that exist in other jurisdictions—could pave the way for complaints to be brought where sections of the workforce are underpaid purely by reference to gender.
Currently, an employer could simply point to a different job title or description to justify differential pay between a man and a woman. The introduction of a job-evaluation procedure to determine equal pay for work of equal value could represent a progressive step toward greater pay equality in the UAE. Job-evaluation procedures involve a detailed and objective assessment of the inputs and outputs of a role or job title to decide where it should be “pay graded” in relation to other roles in the same organization.
The decree is expected to be implemented and enforced one month after publication in the official gazette. In the meantime, employers in the region will need to review their existing leave policies to ensure compatibility with the new entitlement, particularly for employers in the region who do not already offer parental leave or at a level less than five days.
Iain Skinner, Neil Crossley and Louise Reid are attorneys with DLA Piper in Dubai, UAE. © 2020 DLA Piper. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission of Lexology.