Thursday 09 february 2023 - 6:36:30 am

UAE Ministry of Justice highlights country's progress in review of Labour Rights File

This press release is part of a series of statements published by the Ministry of Justice in preparation for the issuance of the release of the National Human Rights Action Plan in March, 2023. Each month, the Ministry of Justice will review the country's achievements in the human rights file and related issues to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the UAE's progress in this field.

ABU DHABI, 17th October, 2022 (WAM) -- Abdullah bin Sultan bin Awad Al Nuaimi, UAE's Minister of Justice, has commended the country’s advancements in strengthening labour rights in a recent review of the file. The comprehensive review, which involved a Ministry of Justice-led assessment of the UAE’s efforts to protect and promote human rights, was conducted in the run-up to the UAE’s release of the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) in March 2023.

The NHRAP, which is currently in development by the National Human Rights Committee and other human rights institutions in the country, will define a framework to safeguard the rights of citizens and residents in the UAE.

Commenting on the review process, Abdullah Al Nuaimi remarked, “The development of the National Human Rights Action Plan provides the Ministry of Justice and its partners an opportunity to take stock of the immense progress that has been achieved by the UAE in recent years. In the labour file in particular, the UAE has strengthened laws to empower workers in accessing their rights while deterring employer violations in all sectors.”

“In cooperation with the National Human Rights Committee, the Ministry of Justice is committed to conducting a full-scale assessment of its human rights advancements in order to build new capabilities, recommend relevant policy changes, and formulate strategies to enhance the human rights climate in the country," he continued.

In discussing the UAE’s achievements in the labour file, Al Nuaimi highlighted that the UAE has ratified nine International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, including six of those in the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Moreover, in recent years, he noted, the UAE has taken bold steps to modernise its labour market through wide-ranging reforms. In this regard, the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, former President of the UAE, issued Federal Decree-Law No. 33 in November 2021 to govern employment relations in the private sector, granting workers the opportunity to take on temporary and flexible work, freelance jobs, condensed working hours, and shared jobs.

The law, Al Nuaimi continued, expressly forbids employers from withholding employees’ documents and penalises sexual harassment and the physical, verbal, and psychological abuse of employees. UAE law mandates paid leaves, rest days, medical insurance, accommodation, meals, workers’ ability to retain their personal IDs, and access to free of charge legal support.

Furthermore, in order to serve its diverse community of workers hailing from over 200 countries, the UAE offers workshops in authorised centres (Tadbeer and Tawjeeh) about their rights, obligations, and ways to report abuse. Workers can also report unpaid wages with assistance in 13 different languages. The UAE regularly conducts inspections of worker accommodations and is able to suspend business licences or call companies before the Public Prosecutor in the event of non-compliance.

Al Nuaimi added, "The UAE attaches great importance to the principles and values ​​of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To realise these values, UAE has established national policies and a legislative system that works to protect the rights of all segments of society, especially workers. In this regard, the UAE has made pivotal legislative amendments this year, the most important of which is the issuance of Federal Law No. 9 of 2022 regarding domestic workers, which prohibits forced labour and any practice that may negatively affect the rights of workers.”

He pointed out that the federal law on domestic workers in effect preserves the rights of all parties, including employers, domestic workers, and recruitment offices, and defines their obligations towards the other in a clear and balanced manner. The law embodies many humanitarian principles, the most important of which is the prohibition of all forms of discrimination that threaten equal opportunities and equality among workers. It also criminalises sexual harassment of domestic workers, whether verbal or physical, and guarantees the right of workers to daily and weekly rest periods and paid annual and medical leave.

As part of the review, the Ministry of Justice examined the UAE’s efforts to bolster worker protections against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, Al Nuaimi noted, federal and local government entities in the UAE committed over US$100 billion in the form of an economic stimulus package to foster economic growth and assist businesses in retaining jobs while establishing an online labour market to publicise new jobs. The UAE also championed a number of innovative policies to ensure worker welfare, including the introduction of the Early Leave Initiative to allow employees whose work was impacted by COVID-19 to take early annual leave in their home countries.

Workers in the UAE were provided with food, accommodation, and financial support where necessary and connected to psychiatric professionals as part of national mental wellness awareness campaigns.

The UAE, Al Nuaimi concluded, continues to monitor measures to further improve the working conditions of its labour force and address any gaps in its aim to ensure that all may live in security, dignity, and safety.

Khoder Nashar