Labour laws in the UAE limit normal working time to 48 hours per week – eight hours a day, six days a week, although this time can be extended in certain industries. Overtime pay is usually granted for work outside these hours and may be paid at a higher rate. Public sector employees often start the day early and leave early, but private companies may keep different hours. Salaried employees are entitled to at least one day off, which is usually Friday. Many companies work 40 hours over five days, and working hours may be shortened during Ramadan.
After six months of continuous service, those in salaried jobs are entitled to annual leave. The minimum entitlement under UAE law is two days per month for those with service of between six months and a year, while workers who have more than a year’s service are entitled to 30 days per annum including public holidays. Sick leave is normally available to employees with service of over three months. Again depending on their length of service, women may be entitled to maternity leave, but there is no provision within Emirati law for paternity leave.
Labour law in the UAE defines ten public holidays, but some emirates will grant additional holidays on an occasional basis, taking the number up to around 12 or 13 each year. Some holidays are only applicable to public sector workers, so check with your employer before making plans around these dates.
Public holiday dates
New Year: 1st January
Israa & Miaraj Night: 24th April*
Ramadan expected to begin: 25th May*
Eid al-Fitr: 27th - 28th June*
Haj season: Starts 31st August *
Arafat Day: 31st August*
Eid al-Adha: 1st-3rd September
Hijri New Year's Day: 21st September*
Commemoration Day: 30th November
Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday: 30th November
UAE National Day: 2nd December
*Dates may change according to the lunar month
Visas and eligibility to work
Although residents of certain countries may be permitted to visit the UAE for a short period without a visa, you must obtain one to work in the country. Visas are issued by your local embassy and will require the sponsorship of your employer, so you must hold a job offer from a firm in the UAE before applying. You may then need to sponsor the applications of family members so they can join you in the UAE. Unlike in some countries, your visa will also serve as a residence permit. You may need to pass a medical examination and prove that you have medical insurance before a residential visa will be granted. As a resident, you must apply for an Emirates ID card. This is a mandatory form of identification, but is increasingly useful for accessing services in the UAE.
The UAE is famous for having very few taxes and there is no system of employment or personal income tax. However, expats need to be clear on their residency status and understand the tax situation between the UAE and their home country, as some countries may require you to pay tax on foreign income.
The UAE’s state pension system is not accessible to non-Emirati citizens. Some employers offer a company pension scheme, but without an income tax system there is no tax advantage to be gained. However, banks are beginning to target expat workers with specially designed savings and pension plans which benefit both employee and employer, and these schemes are expected to become increasingly popular as the expat population grows.
Social security benefits are currently only available to Emirati citizens. As such, expat workers are exempt from the mandatory social security deductions paid by local workers. Be aware that trade unions are illegal under UAE law.
Although the UAE has disability laws to protect the rights of disabled workers, they are relatively new and are not always strictly enforced. Foreign nationals are not entitled to disability benefits in the UAE.