Laws and initiatives to protect immigrant workers
The UAE is a significant recipient of foreign labour. As a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Arab Labour Organization and other labour-focused multilateral organisations, the UAE seeks to work transparently and objectively with regard to its labour obligations.
The UAE has re-evaluated every aspect of working in the country from recruitment to housing, ensuring that all immigrant workers are treated respectfully and able to report instances of mistreatment easily. Charging recruitment fees to prospective employees is illegal in the UAE. The confiscation of workers’ passports is prohibited and workers do not require their employer’s permission to leave the country.
Other reforms for immigrant workers include:
- Ratifying several conventions of International Labour Organization’s related to the rights of workers.
- Passing several laws and resolutions to regulate employment relationships and define the rights and obligations of the parties in a balanced manner. Federal Decree Law No. 33 of 2021 on the Regulation of Labour Relations in the Private Sector, known as the ‘UAE Labour law’, tackles issues related to harassment, bullying, physical violence and psychological abuse against employees. The law prohibits forced labour and discrimination on the basis of gender, race, colour, sex, religion, national or social origin or disability. It also spells out employers’ obligations towards employees and bans the employment of children below the age of 15.
- proposing six specific commitments for adoption within the Global Compact for Migration. These include:
- implementation of recruitment practices that are compliant with international standards
- access for all migrant workers to information on their rights and obligations prior to departure and post arrival
- ensuring safe and decent work conditions for all migrant workers, specifically for domestic workers.
- holding Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) and working closely with countries where the labour originate from, to tackle specific challenges that face the migrant labour in the Asia-Gulf migration corridors
- introducing a domestic law which establishes the principle of informed consent, ensuring that workers are aware of the terms of the contract, nature of work, the workplace, the remuneration and the period of daily and weekly rest.
- enforcing the wages protection system to ensure employees are paid in full and on time. Read more in Ministerial Resolution no. 43 of 2022 Regarding Wages Protection System.
- introducing an insurance system to protect the benefits and rights of the private sector employees and domestic helpers
- enforcing provisions for safety and health of workers
- allocating over USD 5 billion to ensure that temporary worker accommodations are in line with and exceed international standards
- implementing a standard employment contract which spells out how contracts can be terminated and make it easier for workers to switch employers
- promoting gender equality in the workplace
- combatting human trafficking at the regional and international levels
- supporting the rights of people of determination by guaranteeing them an equal opportunity to work and providing suitable working and health conditions
Find out more about worker’s protection in these resources:
- Labour rights in the UAE – Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Washington DC
- Labour rights – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Find out in these reports a set of policies and programmes implemented by MoHRE from 2016 onwards and their impact on reforming the labour market:
- Workers’ Welfare Report 2017-2018 (PDF, 200 KB)
- Domestic Worker Manual (available in English, Indonesian, Urdu, Tagalog and Sinhalese in PNG and PDF)
- Service Directory of Domestic Workers – 2019 (PDF, 1.61 MB).
Online services for immigrant workers
- Register a labour complaint (domestic workers)
- Registration of labour complaints
- Register free zone complaint
Find out more digital services for immigrant workers on the website of Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
The UAE issued a guide titled ‘Know Your Rights’ to educate the labourers about their rights and obligations. The guide communicates seven key messages to immigrant workers. The messages are:
1.You are expected to sign your employment contract after arriving in the UAE.
2.The costs of the recruitment and travel, as well as the expenses for obtaining your residency permit in the UAE shall be borne by the employer with whom you have agreed to conclude a contract.
3. The terms and provisions of your employment contract must be consistent with the job offer you have signed in your country.
You are expected to:
4. maintain a copy of the job offer you have signed
5. contact Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) promptly, if the employer did not provide you with the agreed-upon job opportunity, or in case you did not receive your salary in full and on time
6. maintain your identification documents in a secure place.
7. You are entitled to leave your job at any time. However, you shall be fully aware of your legal obligations.
Find out more about your rights and obligations as an immigrant worker in the UAE. ‘Know Your Rights’ guide is available in the following languages:
- Bengali (PDF, 404 KB)
- Chinese (PDF, 644 KB)
- English (PDF, 410 KB)
- Hindi (PDF, 402 KB)
- Malayalam (PDF, 432 KB)
- Urdu (PDF, 382 KB).
Setting up channels to resolve labour disputes
If an employee has a complaint or a query, he can call MoHRE’s 24-hour toll-free number: 600590000
The UAE has established offices in courts to provide legal support to workers in labour disputes and labour care units have been established across the UAE to provide protection for workers and raise their awareness on their rights.
Workers are exempt from paying litigation fees for claims less than AED 100,000. Articles 54 and 56 of the ‘UAE Labour Law’ spell provisions for individual labour disputes and collective labour disputes.
Efforts to enhance work conditions for migrant workers and nationals
The UAE made enormous efforts to enhance the work conditions for all employees and create job opportunities. Some of these efforts are:
- In 2015, the UAE government injected AED 300 billion to foster a knowledge economy, driven by innovation to prepare the UAE for a world after oil
- It developed several strategies to diversify its national income based on a sustainable economy and to increase work opportunities.
The UAE adopted Emiratisation programmes which mandate the inclusion of Emiratis in the job sector, particularly in the private sector. The latest was NAFIS, a comprehensive federal programme which includes reforms and financial incentives to drive work opportunities for both: young and experienced Emiratis in the private sector.
- Tips to avoid labour and visa fraud – this portal
- Channels to contact MoHRE
- Labour rights and duties – WorkinUAE.ae
- Smart apps for employees and employers – WorkinUAE.ae