Labour of love. But not really
Labour laws are changing at last. But how much are they really changing? We take a closer look at the recent alterations and scratch our heads.
December 19, 2010 4:56 by Eva Fernandes
Labour laws in the UAE are a tricky subject, one wrought in loop holes and confusion – and that is precisely the reason Kipp decided to spend the morning breaking down what the recent change in the labour law really means.
The new labour law allows “skilled and professional” workers to switch jobs without soliciting a ‘no-objection’ certificate from their employer. Instead the workers will require a visa stamp from the Ministry of Labour. Kipp is curious which category of workers fit in the “skilled and professional” group exactly. Unfortunately not one of the reports specifies, but we assume we’re talking about finance and financial services, architects, and lawyers – that sort of thing (we fear us journalists won’t make the cut…). The new law does include change for “lower-level staff,” whose companies’ will no longer have the right to stop employees from leaving if they can’t meet basic standards (like making sure they get paid within 60 days). However, in order to leave a company in this case, the employee must file an inspection report with the ministry.
Under the current system, if an employer does not consent to the departure of an employee he can impose a six month ban on the employees’ visa. The six-month ban means that expats would need to leave the UAE for six months before they can re-enter with a new job, a consequence that makes re-employment challenging (not to mention it can create great disruption for those with families and established lives out here).
Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labour said the new law was intended to “improve the labour market and limit any wrong practices.” WAM quoted Ghobash as saying “The UAE is determined to protect the rights and benefits of the labourers as well as their employers particularly those concerned with international labour policies … whilst preserving the sovereignty of the UAE over its territories.”
But, as with all laws, the devil is in the detail: apparently the change of the law is only applicable if the employee has worked with his or her company for a minimum of two years (the new duration of labour cards). So, we’ve gone from requiring an NOC to change jobs (which, in Kipp’s experience, is generally only granted after a minimum of two or three years have been served) to having to serve a minimum of two years to switch jobs without one.
So essentially, while the new labour law amendments means that employees will theoretically have greater freedom to switch jobs, in actual fact it really isn’t quite as revolutionary as headlines would like us to believe.
As we’ve said before about laws and the UAE, the more things change, the more they stay the same.