Working from home in the UAE: a viable option for employers

The economic impact of Covid-19 put a dent on a large number of businesses. It prompted many to abandon traditional company structures in favor of alternative working arrangements such as flexi-working and, most importantly, working from home in the UAE.

Before Covid, remote working was not very common. However, in an effort to counteract the spread of Covid-19, the UAE government has adopted a variety of working-from-home (WFH) laws, directives, and recommendations during the previous 18 months. Employers continue to embrace these protocols, resulting in a huge percentage of employees working from home, either entirely or partially.

In this article, you will find information about how to get accustomed easily and all the advantages of working from home in the UAE.

  1. Legal stands before COVID-19
  2. Legal situation after the outbreak
  3. Employees at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)
  4. How can employers arrange it legally?
  5. Is it possible for an employer to make an employee return to work?
  6. What initiatives is the UAE putting in place to encourage remote working?
  7. The future of remote work
  8. Work from home in UAE: The bottom line
  9. Interested in remote work? The Talent Point is the right place

Before the COVID epidemic, the legal situation was as follows:

Employees in the UAE worked normally for a single employer at a specified geographical place. For instance, an employer’s company premises as set out in its commercial trade license, hence remote working is a new notion.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (‘MoHRE’) have encouraged onshore UAE national employees to work from home in Dubai since 2017. However, there was no similar recognition for expatriate employees until recently. 

The key employment legislative framework throughout the UAE did not allow the concept of remote work. This occurs both onshore and within the free zones and Abu Dhabi Global Market (‘ADGM’).  

The situation changed abruptly in March of last year when the UAE government implemented several measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. These included requiring employees in both the public and private sectors to work remotely where possible.

Following COVID-19, the Ministry of Health and Human Resources issued a Temporary Guide Regulating Remote Work in Private Establishments. It supported the Ministerial Resolution No. 281 of 2020 and the enactment of Ministerial Resolution No. 279 of 2020. This gives an employer the explicit right to request that an employee work remotely, among other emergency measures.

Both Resolutions would last supposedly only for some time, but they are still in effect. It is unclear whether the MoHRE will extend this guidance beyond the current situation and make permanent legislative changes. The terms of these two Resolutions affect differently in the free zones. Nevertheless, certain free zones, such as the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (‘DMCC’), have adopted their own advice based on the wording of these two Resolutions.

3.     Employees at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

The DIFC enacted Presidential Directive No. 4 of 2020 (‘Directive’) for DIFC employees. It includes several emergency employment-related measures, one of which was to impose remote working conditions on employees. However, on July 31, 2020, the DIFC withdrew it and has made no more legislative changes since then. To date, no more actions or directives have been enacted in the ADGM.

For a few years, the government has allowed companies in the Emirate of Dubai to operate at 100% capacity. However, many private sector companies continue to use remote working entirely or have introduced atypical working arrangements. Also, they have amended and/or implemented company policies to reflect these arrangements. 

In addition, the Dubai government has set up a variety of innovative measures for public sector employees inside the Emirate. These include:

  • A flexible working system in government departments.
  • “Work from home” policy to support female employees whose children are pursuing distance study. 
  • Within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, there is still a limit on the number of employees on business premises (60%).

4.     How can employers arrange it legally?

There is currently no formal entitlement for an employee to WFH under UAE Federal Law No 8 of 1980 as amended. As a result, it holds the status of unregulated due to the legislative failure to address it. Despite this, MOHRE issued two ministerial directives in March 2020, allowing an employer to request that an employee work remotely. 

These resolutions are still in effect. It is unclear whether they will be revoked by the MOHRE in the future, or subject to future legislative change.

When an arrangement for working from home in the UAE takes place, an employer must also implement a policy that outlines the rules that apply to the agreements. Employees should understand how the arrangements will function and what they can expect.

5.     Is it possible for an employer to make an employee return to work?

Yes, especially in light of the legal framework outlined above and the vaccine concerns outlined below.

Some employers want their employees to be in the office on a regular or semi-regular basis. Also, working from home in the UAE may not work for all business types. There is no legal requirement to provide notice. However, from the perspective of employee management, employees should receive a warning. This is so that they can make any required arrangements to return to work.

5.1 Safety measures to take into account for returning employees

Even though the vaccination process is ongoing, the UAE authorities have guaranteed that protection measures would not be relaxed. To date, about 80% of the population has received it. 

Employers must continue to ensure that they have implemented all necessary occupational health and safety precautions. Also, any specific measures necessary for the employee’s function, including the requirement to wear masks, social distancing, etc.

6.     What initiatives is the UAE putting in place to encourage remote working?

The government implemented a flexible working system across all government agencies in Dubai. In addition, working from home in the UAE policies to accommodate female employees whose children are enrolled in distant learning programs.

Furthermore, Dubai has introduced a new remote working visa. This initiative motivates professionals, entrepreneurs, and foreign business owners who want to relocate to Dubai and work remotely. 

The applicants must have an employment contract in their home jurisdiction and a monthly salary of at least USD 5,000. Also, the ability to cover health insurance throughout their stay in Dubai.

6.1 New government working hours measures implemented in 2022

Government employees and certain private-sector workers will work a half-day on Fridays under the new regime.

On Fridays, federal employees who live far or who have special circumstances will receive precedence to work from home. As the UAE switched to a reduced workweek, the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources issued new remote work laws.

Government personnel and certain private-sector employees will work a half-day on Fridays under the new regime. The new weekend in the country is Friday half-day, Saturday, and Sunday.

Federal government agencies can use flexible working hours and WFH options on Fridays. They must, however, ensure that at least 70% of their personnel are at the location to service the public. Furthermore, they have to make guarantee a seamless transaction flow.

The organization must also determine the appropriate types of jobs for the model of working from home in the UAE

Employees must first obtain permission from their direct manager to work from home on Fridays. The human resources department and the department head will both collaborate to handle the approval.

The new workweek arrangement went into effect in January 2022. Its development comes from the need to help employees achieve a better work-life balance while also increasing productivity.

The government sector has adopted the 4.5-day workweek. However, most private enterprises have changed to a Saturday-Sunday weekend, rather than taking a half-day off on Friday.

7.     The future of remote work

COVID-19 has unquestionably transformed the way remote working is perceived. It removed any stigma related to the phrase “working from home”.

Employees have been able to show their employers important progress. Over the last few years, they have demonstrated they can work efficiently outside the four walls of their office. This is achieved with the help of modern technology, among other tools. Remote working has seen the introduction/expansion of video conferencing services such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams in the UAE.

7.1 Advantages

Employees have claimed several improvements after the model of working from home in the UAE came into existence. Higher job satisfaction, increased work/life balance, greater flexibility, elimination of tedious commutes, and, most crucially for firms struggling through a worldwide crisis, a potential decrease in overhead spending have all been highlighted in recent months. However, it is clear that not everyone is able or willing to work from home, and future arrangements will differ.

7.2 What is to come in working from home in UAE

For many, the past few months have acted as a stark reminder of how much they value workplace social interaction. Also, returning to work feels like a return to normalcy. Nevertheless, major global household names like Twitter and Facebook officially proclaim that their employees can work from home indefinitely. Remote working will continue to be a feature not just in the UAE, but globally.

In recent years, the number of private sector organizations enabling flexible working arrangements for their employees has steadily increased. This represents a key component in employee recruitment and retention. However, thanks to the virus, this general trend has accelerated in recent months. 

Organizations have to change their current workplace practices and regulations. This is to adapt to the new “normal,” retain employees and recruit the finest future potential. Because this is an emerging area of the law, it is critical to seek legal assistance to verify that any applicable remote working rules are compliant with local laws and practices.

8.     Work from home in UAE: The bottom line

Despite its long-standing policy of requiring all employees to spend their working days at their employer’s office, it is obvious that the UAE is moving toward more flexible working arrangements. This is a desirable approach from both a business and an employment standpoint. The situation applies particularly to IT companies, many of which currently operate with online work from home in Dubai and several countries across the world. Also, many organizations will certainly be eager to embrace some sort of flexible working in the future.

Employees with flexi-working arrangements have more freedom to handle their personal lives, whether it’s childcare or other obligations. This will happen without endangering their work. From a corporate standpoint, giving employees more autonomy is likely to boost their job happiness, leading to increased productivity.

9.     Interested in remote work? The Talent Point is the right place

Given these new policies of working from home in the UAE, it becomes imperative to have a wide arsenal of tools to be completely prepared to take on every opportunity that comes across your path.

Over the last few years, thousands of job hunters and freelancers have dared to become part of the many people that had already made the decision to work from the comfort of their house without risking their position, increasing productivity, and also being able to spend quality time with their families. Again, keeping their employers happy with their performance.

Here at TheTalentPoint, we want to help you achieve these and many more goals, for you to be able to grow professionally and personally as well.

Would you like to contact TheTalentPoint for more information? You can reach us at +97143316688 or send an email to contact@thetalentpoint.com, and you will be able to speak to one of our representatives that will take care of any questions you might have.

Kate Williams

Kate Williams
Kate is the Global Strategy Director at Connect Group. She is specialized in company formation, international business expansion and employee relocation. She studied in Southampton (United Kingdom) and moved to the UAE in 2014.

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