1. Requirement for foreign employees to work
Every employee must be registered with the Ministry of Labour or the free zone authority depending on where the employer is established. Government owned entities are only registered with the Department of Immigration but depending on how they are established, they are still subject to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour. If the employee is not a national of a Gulf Cooperation Council member state then he or she must also be registered with the Department of Immigration within the Ministry of Interior. Employees will also need to be sponsored by the employer (in a free zone, the technical sponsor is the free zone authority itself) for work permit and residency visa purposes; with such sponsorship being employer specific. In order to obtain sponsorship employees must submit attested educational and professional qualifications, as well as undergo medical examinations for contagious diseases. There are restrictions on an employee’s ability to move from one sponsor to another (i.e. to effectively move jobs) and various factors come into play including length of service, earning levels and educational qualifications.
2. Emiratisation: Employment of UAE nationals
An employer is under a duty to consider UAE nationals for all vacancies prior to engaging a foreign national. However, there is no labour market test as such providing for minimum advertising periods or interviewing requirements. Certain roles, including HR managers, secretaries and Government Liaison Officers are reserved for UAE nationals. Specific sectors including retail, insurance and banking are subject to quota requirements to employ UAE nationals of 2%, 5% and 4% of their workforces year on year, respectively. The UAE government is increasingly offering subsidies and funds to private sector employees to employ UAE nationals and subjecting public tendering and contracts to the company’s achievement of percentage targets for the employment of UAE nationals as a total part of the workforce.
These emiratisation requirements do not apply in the free zones. The DIFC Employment Law permits positive discrimination in favour of UAE nationals.
UAE nationals are protected from termination of employment in the private sector and employers who fall under the Ministry of Labour jurisdiction must obtain the Ministry’s consent before dismissing a UAE national employee.
3. Recruitment agencies and employment businesses
The sourcing and supply of labour is extremely regulated with the trade licence for such commercial activities being restricted to UAE nationals, with an additional requirement for the General Manager of the business to be a UAE national with a university degree. The engagement of individuals from a manpower supplier without the required trade licence can render an employer liable to penalties for engaging individuals without proper sponsorship and also have personal repercussions for the individual.