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Protecting labour rights

The advancement and protection of rights of workers is a national priority.  The UAE is considered a major recipient of foreign labour, thanks to the country's open policies and tolerant and cosmopolitan community. According to the World Bank, foreign workers in the UAE sent back home more than 29 billion US dollars in 2014 – almost all of which went to developing countries - making the UAE the third biggest source of remittances in the world.  This income then benefits the workers' families and home country economies. 

The UAE has ratified nine major ILO conventions related to the rights of workers, and has adopted numerous laws to protect workers' rights, including in the areas of recruitment, pay, housing and health.

Charging recruitment fees to prospective employees is illegal in the UAE, and steps have been taken to protect workers from unscrupulous recruiters.  The confiscation of workers' passports is prohibited, and workers do not need their employer's permission to leave the country.  All workers must be provided with comprehensive health insurance at the cost of the employer and there are strict rules regarding the provision of proper accommodation.  More than 3.2 million workers are paid through the Wage Protection System. 

A 24-hour toll-free hotline allows workers to file complaints. The UAE has established offices in courts to provide legal support to workers in labour disputes and labour care units have been established across the UAE to provide protection for workers and raise awareness of their rights.

Enforcement of protections for workers has been intensified and substantial penalties have been imposed for violations relating to working conditions and workers' rights. 

The UAE has also signed numerous Memoranda of Understanding with workers' home countries designed to promote cooperation in protecting the rights of workers in the UAE.

The UAE is continuously working to strengthen protections for workers.  New labour reforms took effect in the UAE on 1 January 2016 that place the country at the forefront of efforts in the region to strengthen protections for workers.  The UAE Ministry of Labour issued three Ministerial Decrees in 2015 (764, 765 and 766) that are intended to ensure that relations between workers and employers are entered into voluntarily and freely and governed only by Government-monitored work contracts and the labour law.  The new reforms focus on improving transparency of job terms and employment contracts, spell out how contracts can be terminated, and make it easier for workers to switch employers.  Under the new policies, prospective workers will be asked to sign a standard employment offer in their home country that will in turn be filed with the Ministry of Labour before a work permit is issued.  That agreement will then be registered as a legal contract once the worker arrives in the country, and no changes will be allowed unless they extend additional benefits to which the worker agrees.  Either side will be able to terminate the contract, after which the worker will be free to switch to a new employer.

Protections for domestic workers

In September 2017, Federal Law No. 10 of 2017 on support of domestic helpers was passed to provide protection to domestic workers. The law ensures that workers are aware of the contract terms prior to departure from their home country as well as include entitlements and provisions such as weekly day rest and 30 days of paid annual leave and the right to retain personal documents. In addition, the law strictly regulates the work of recruitment agencies in order to avoid any form of abuse such as payment of commission in exchange for employment. Moreover, the law sets out key prohibitions such as the prohibition of employment of minors and includes anti-discrimination clauses.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has also licensed (37) centers under the name “Tawjeeh". The centers inform workers of their rights and responsibilities and educate the them about the UAE's culture and customs.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has also established (39) service centers across the country. These centers called “Tadbeer”, offer trainings designed to raise domestic workers awareness of their rights and responsibilities, and provide them with copies of their employment contracts.

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