Overtime culture rife in UAE – but most employees not compensated

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 22 June 2016

Majority of UAE workers say they work overtime and are under increasing pressure to do so

Work-life balance is completely out of kilter in the UAE, according to a new report by Morgan McKinley. The majority of employees often work overtime with no financial reward or lieu days, and they say they feel obliged to do so.
 
More than two-thirds of professionals in the UAE work longer than their contracted hours, and 90 per cent of them are not compensated, the report found. Just under a quarter of employees work an extra 10 hours each week, and the vast majority of those putting in overtime say they feel obliged to do so – 35 per cent say it is actually expected of them. Despite the extra hours worked, more than half of the professionals asked said that their productivity does not increase as a result of extra time at their desk.
 
“In the UAE, an employee’s maximum normal working hours are eight hours in a day or 48 hours in a week,” says Shadha Zawawi, senior associate at Mahmood Hussain Advocates and Legal Consultancy. “The working hours may be increased to nine hours a day in commercial establishments, hotels, cafeterias, security services and other such businesses.”
 
The Morgan McKinley report shows that six out of 10 professionals in the UAE are contracted to work more than 43 hours a week. By comparison, according to the OECD, the longest working week globally is in Mexico, where people work 42.85 hours per week.
 
The reality of employees’ working hours is in contravention of UAE labour law. “Overtime should not exceed two hours a day, unless it is necessary to prevent substantial loss, or accident,” explains Zawawi. “The employee is entitled to overtime pay equivalent to the wage for his normal working hours, plus an additional amount of at least 25 per cent of that wage. If the overtime falls between the hours of 9pm and 4am, the employee is entitled to overtime pay equivalent to wage for his normal working hours plus an additional amount of a further 25 per cent of that wage.”
 
“If an employee is required to work on a Friday, he is to be compensated with a substitute rest day or be paid his basic wage for his normal hours of work, plus at least an additional 50 per cent of that wage. However, employees cannot work more than two successive Fridays except if they are employed on a daily wage basis,” Zawawi adds.
 
“If the employee works public holidays, he/she is entitled to full remuneration plus substitute leave in respect of such days plus 50 per cent of his/her wage. If he is not granted substitute leave, the employer shall pay the employee 150 per cent of his basic wage in respect of the days worked,” she says.
 
However, these overtime rules do not always apply to workers in senior executive managerial or supervisory positions, nor to the crew of marine vessels and seamen.
 
“In most cases, I do not favour overtime,” says Sarmad Tiwana, head of HR at port management and logistics experts Gulftainer. “Simply because if a person is not able to complete their job within the designated hours then there are likely to be three causes: either the employee is being asked to do far too much work; does not possess the capability to complete the assigned tasks’ or the employee chooses to stay late for reasons only known to them.
 
“Working longer hours or regularly staying late in office is amusingly ‘fashionable’ to some people. But I push my team to leave on time. Prioritising work and lifestyle should be important to each individual, because it allows you to be fully recharged. Encouraging your employees to have a proper work-life balance means a more engaged workforce.”