Rising number of UAE companies offer enhanced maternity leave packages

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 9 Mar 2016

Flexible leave arrangements are becoming more common but part-time work is still rare, say experts

Rigid employment laws in the UAE can mean fewer options in terms of maternity leave and part-time work compared to other countries, but some organisations are breaking the mould and offering better packages.
 
In the Emirate of Sharjah, maternity leave allowance is 60 days for female employees. In the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which is governed by different laws to the rest of Dubai, 65 days maternity leave is offered. Generally, across the rest of the UAE, there is just 45 paid days of maternity leave.
 
The international media agency MediaCom has an office in the UAE which offers full maternity pay for the first 10 weeks of leave, followed by 50 per cent pay for the next six weeks – plus an option for eight additional unpaid weeks off. MediaCom also offers paid paternity leave for seven days.
 
“New mothers are often faced with the decision to return to work sooner than they are comfortable with or leave their employment entirely,” says Bre Hill, talent manager for MENA at Mediacom. “Providing up to six months of leave allows new mothers to return more confidently to work and enables our organisation to retain great talent. Our belief is that the benefit of having engaged, motivated and happy employees outweighs the cost.
 
“In looking to increase our maternity leave, we were conscious that consideration must also be given to fathers. The provision of seven working days of paternity leave recognises that it’s equally important for fathers to have time to spend with their newborn and family.”
 
It is not unusual for organisations in the UAE to come to personal agreements with staff when it comes to annual or maternity leave. “The federal labour law provides that a female employee who has at least one year’s service shall be entitled to 45 calendar days of paid maternity leave – or the same period at half pay where the length of service is less than one year,” says Jamie Liddington, head of employment at Hadef & Partners, a law firm in the UAE. “There is further provision for additional unpaid leave of up to 100 days (consecutive or non-consecutive) where there is an illness which prevents the employee from resuming work.”
 
The law states that a minimum of 30 calendar days annual paid leave is required for private sector workers in non-free zone areas ('onshore' areas), as well as public holidays that fall on a normal working day. DIFC law provides a minimum of 20 working days of paid vacation leave in addition to national holidays.
 
“In both the 'onshore' area and the DIFC, employers have unfettered discretion to provide entitlements and benefits which are more favourable than the applicable law. In such cases, the employee shall be entitled to rely on the employer’s more favourable practice – though it would be wise if this practice is recorded in the contract of employment or a written policy document,” adds Liddington.
 
LuxSqFt, a property website, has made no secret of the fact it is now offering employees unlimited annual leave. They have 25 days paid leave and are permitted to take additional unpaid time off.
 
Despite the increasing flexibility of employers, part-time work is still not a common phenomenon in the UAE. “In the 'onshore area', part-time working is lawful but where the part-time work is in addition to the employee’s primary job (ie a second, part-time role), the part-time employer must obtain permission from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE),” explains Liddington. “However, the federal labour law is silent on the subject – unsurprisingly as it was drafted in 1980. DIFC employment law makes no specific provision in relation to part-time working but the practice is allowed by the DIFC Authority subject to the working hours remaining within the confines of what is acceptable under DIFC employment law.”