The outburst of COVID-19 has given rise to business challenges that most business establishments and the employed are facing. The employee-employer relationship has witnessed a major stress in these trying times and it is indeed difficult to maintain equilibrium within the confines of the law while ensuring the permanency of their businesses and jobs. In an attempt to address the worries caused by COVID-19, the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (the Ministry) has recently published two resolutions which provide guidance on how UAE employers in the private sector can lessen the impact of the virus while protecting the rights of their workforce during this mentally demanding period.
As many firms are now shuffling their infrastructures, these short-term measures introduced by the Ministry will be determining factors in terms of the steps to be taken to maintain businesses and employment. These resolutions encourage employers to consider alternative ways of reducing labour costs rather than laying off employees. It permits employers to restructure their contractual relationship with employees by adopting home working and remote working policy and placing employees on unpaid leave; It would be ideal to consider all possible alternatives rather than implementing harsh measures.
Further, the Resolution makes clear that employers must obtain the employee’s written agreement before imposing any measures as mentioned in the act. Employers may impose a temporary salary reduction with the employee’s written consent. The final action available to employers is a permanent salary reduction. Where the salary is to be permanently reduced, the employer will need to go one step further and obtain the Ministry’s approval by submitting an application for the employment contract to be amended. In case an employer has identified a ‘surplus’ of non-UAE national employees, the employer is required to register the employees’ details on the Ministry’s portal for job seekers, the Virtual Labour Market System. These employees can then be taken on by other employers within the UAE, who may be looking to recruit given the current suspension of foreign recruitment. All of these law amendments come with a whole lot of meticulous paperwork and terms and conditions that cannot be overlooked. Different industries and work sectors have different actions to be implemented depending upon the need of the hour within that faculty. All of these measures cannot be handled without sound legal assistance as every minute aspect of the laws imposed have to be accurately followed and implemented to avoid any misfunction on either side. Companies are also required to reduce the number of customers visiting their premises to a maximum of 30 percent of capacity and implement procedures to ensure safe distancing among customers and continuous sanitisation of devices and facilities. Additionally, there are specific requirements for employers across all sectors (many of which relate to employers with employees who live in labour accommodation). As the situation is rapidly evolving, the UAE is likely to continue to introduce new measures and clarifications. We will continue to monitor developments closely and provide updates accordingly.