Dubai: UAE businesses seeking UAE nationals to meet their Emiratisation job targets should be paying close attention to the country’s learning academies and the skilled candidates they are putting out into the marketplace.
In this, they should also take lessons from how some of the biggest corporates - e& by Etisalat, Majid Al Futtaim Group, Emaar, Chalhoub Group, etc. - have been working on their Emiratisation program - well before the new rules came into effect.
“Having a good talent acquisition strategy has helped mid- to large-sized organisations link the graduate programs with their learning and development academy,” said Vijay Gandhi, Regional Director at Korn Ferry, the specialist consultancy. “(As a result), we are witnessing hiring of UAE nationals in hospitality, retail, real estate and e-commerce industries and outside of the traditional banking, semi-government and public sector (jobs).”
In this regard, employers in the private sector would find it easier to tap candidates within the UAE government’s ‘NAFIS’ project, which is building up a pool of candidates armed with the required credentials or those who have gone through upskilling to reach those levels.
A good talent acquisition strategy has helped UAE's mid-to-large organisations link the graduate program with their learning and development academy.
Compliance an immediate priority
UAE businesses will have no leeway when it comes to complying with creating jobs or hiring UAE nationals in their organisations. If they take their eyes off the targets, the penalties that come with it can be onerous.
“There are no exemptions (in meeting the specified targets),” said Ivor McGettigan, Partner - Employment Practice at Al Tamimi & Co. “All companies registered under the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) with more than 50 skilled employees must comply with the Emiratisation rates. McGettigan answers with a categorical ‘No’ on whether businesses can in any way offset not meeting the annual targets.
There are no exemptions - all companies registered under MoHRE with more than 50 skilled employees must comply with the Emiratisation rates.
This is why Gandhi states employers have to make ‘tactical changes aggressively to attract and retain UAE nationals in their workforce. He reckons that businesses in the digital economy space could be better placed in matching job requirements with specific skillsets that the UAE national candidates bring to that job.
Businesses outside of the digital economy space will have their work cut out. (Free zone enterprises are exempt from the Emiratisation targets.)
Until a wider base of candidates is available, businesses are hiring citizens for HR roles as government liaisons,” said Robin Philip, Director at A&A Associate. “The Emiratisation initiative is only applicable to those firms with 50 or more employees. In such cases, these firms should raise their Emiratisation rate by 2 per cent of overall skilled jobs.
“The deadline for achieving the target is December 31, 2022.”
Companies that fail to meet the targets by the deal will be fined Dh72,000 in January, or Dh6,000 a month for every month in 2022. The fine shall be increased by Dh1,000 on an annual basis.
More specific job profiles
According to consultants, it will only be a matter of time before active recruitment within the private sector of UAE nationals cutting across job profiles happens.
“The public sector will continue to dictate demand for local talent,” said an HR consultant. “We have seen this happen in the tech industry, where highly qualified UAE nationals are instantly picked up by government or semi-government entities. The private sector will have to come up with salary and perks that match these.”
Emphasis is on ‘skills’
This time, it is no longer about meeting targets through recruiting a certain number of UAE nationals each year. The emphasis on skillsets as well.
“MoHRE classifies employment into nine professional levels,” said Atik Munshi, Managing Partner at Finexpertiza UAE. “These are according to the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) issued by the International Labour Organisation.”
These levels are:
Level 1: Legislators, managers, and business executives.
Level 2: Professionals in scientific, technical and human fields.
Level 3: Technicians in scientific, technical and humanitarian fields.
Level 4: Writing professionals.
Level 5: Service and sales occupations.
Level 6: Skilled workers in agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry.
Level 7: Craftsmen in construction, mining, and other craftsmen.
Level 8: Operators and assemblers of machinery and equipment.
Level 9: Simple professions.
According to Munshi, “Labour is classified as skilled if it fulfils all the following conditions: The worker must be at a professional level (one amongst first to fifth level mentioned above); the worker has obtained a certificate higher than the secondary certificate or an equivalent certificate; the certificate must be attested by the competent authorities; and the monthly salary (excluding commission) of the worker must not be less than Dh4,000.”
The UAE has set the ground rules on what it expects from businesses in creating roles for UAE nationals in the private sector. It is up to the concerned businesses to start running with that.
Establishments shall increase their current Emiratisation rate on high-skill jobs by 2% annually and raising the said rate to 10% by 2026. The hiring of UAE citizens is applicable for skilled employees only and the prescribed ratio too would be applied in respect to skilled workers only.
Heavy costs for non-compliance
Companies that fail to meet the targets by the deadline will be fined Dh72,000 in January, or Dh6,000 a month for every month in 2022. The fine shall be increased by Dh1,000 on an annual basis.
There will be an administrative fine on the company found falsifying Emiratisation employment records - not less than Dh20,000 and not more than Dh100,000 for each Emirati employee. Financial support to be ceased and returned by employee found in violation.
If the candidate benefiting from NAFIS is not employed after being issued a work permit and the company benefits from the NAFIS scheme, an administrative fine of Dh20,000 for each Emirati employee, as well as the suspension of benefits, and a refund of the amounts disbursed to the company, will be applicable.
If the employee benefiting from NAFIS shows non-commitment towards work, an administrative fine of Dh20,000 for each Emirati employee, as well as the suspension of benefits, and a refund of the amounts disbursed to the company, will be applicable.
If the employee benefitting from NAFIS does not come to work and the company does not inform NAFIS about it, an administrative fine of Dh20,000 for each Emirati employee, as well as the suspension of benefits, and a refund of the amounts disbursed to the company, will be enforced.
If the company fails to inform NAFIS of any change in the employee’s benefits without an excuse accepted by NAFIS, an administrative fine of Dh20,000 for each case will be applied, the employee’s financial support will be frozen and he/she will be asked to return it.
Companies submitting incorrect documents or data to obtain NAFIS benefits or to circumvent Emiratisation will be fined not less than Dh20,000 and not more than Dh100,000 for each Emirati employee. Financial support to be ceased and must be returned by the employee violating the rules.
Credit: Robin Philip, Director at A&A Associate