Maternity leave extended for government employees in Abu Dhabi

Author: Sophie-Marie Odum | Date: 5 Oct 2016

New law increases entitlement to three months – a step closer to ensuring women are provided with a “supportive work environment”

Government employees in Abu Dhabi will receive an extra month of maternity leave as part of a new law issued by the president of the UAE and Emir of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Women will be entitled to three months (90 days) of maternity leave, on full pay; when employees return to work, they can leave two hours early every day for a year to take care of their children. Previously, new mothers could take two months’ (60 days) leave and an hour a day. Fathers will be entitled to three days’ paternity leave.

Maternity leave entitlement in the UAE lags behind many other countries – female employees in the private sector receive just 45 days of maternity leave but are allowed to take an additional 100 days unpaid.

In August, it was announced that the UAE Gender Balance Council would review the country’s maternity law, and some private sector firms have already enhanced their policies: Dubai-based Omnicom Media Group MENA recently increased entitlement to 90 days, following a number of requests.

Omnicom reviewed its policy and found that the “current legal provision does not necessarily allow sufficient time for a mother to truly bond and nurture her child after giving birth,” said Elie Khouri, CEO of Omnicom Media Group MENA.
“We firmly believe the secret to leading a happy life is by prioritising your family and harmony at home over everything else; work should always come second.”

The move was part of a “wider programme to support the return of new mothers to the workplace, which will also include flexible working hours and a mentorship and empowerment programme,” the company said.

Kuwait’s Alghanim Industries also recently introduced 90 days of maternity leave and Dubai-based real estate consultancy MENA Properties has extended leave to 60 days.

The UAE Gender Balance Council was formed to provide women with a “supportive work environment” and to activate a ‘gender balance index’ across various sectors. Council president Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said that the index will ensure women’s effective participation in the country’s economic development.

“In the next phase, the council will take the necessary steps to ensure that men and women have equal opportunities to participate in the sustainable development of the UAE,” she said.

The UAE hopes become one of the world’s top 25 countries for gender equality by 2021. It currently ranks 41st.
The new law, which may be applicable to some government companies, also encourages government entities to recruit people with disabilities and provide adequate working conditions. In addition, Emiratis can now be appointed to part-time positions.