Stock office staff in Dubai
Picture used for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: If you are working in the UAE, you may be employed in a mainland company or a free zone. While companies on the mainland are governed by federal laws, like the new UAE Labour Law and their work permits are issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE), employees working in the free zone have their work permits issued by the free zone's authority. Therefore, if you are working in a free zone and want to file a complaint against your employer because of unpaid wages or not being compensated for overtime work, the application process is different compared to employees working for mainland companies.

Firstly, it is important to understand how free zones are different from mainland companies to understand whether or not you can file a complaint with MOHRE in case you have a work dispute with your employer.

Laws applicable in free zones

According to the UAE’s official government portal - - each free zone authority has its own employment law and employees are subject to the rules and regulations of their respective free zone authority. For example, free zones such as the Dubai International Financial Centre or Dubai Media City have their own laws and regulations.

However, according to the official portal, if you are under an employment contract with a respective free zone authority, the provisions set out in the employment contract must be in accordance with the UAE's Labour Law.

Although, the labour law is not generally applied, the UAE has laws to ensure protection of labour rights, consumer rights and intellectual property rights. If business owners fail to comply with these laws, they could face penalties.

Are free zone employees sponsored by the company for the free zone authority?

Free zone employees are sponsored by the respective free zone authority and not by their employer. Moreover, the employer files for the employee's work permit and residence permit with the respective free zone authority.

Can a free zone worker file a complaint with MoHRE?

If an employer has violated the labour rights of a worker, the worker can file a case with MOHRE. But, there is separate online service portal for free zone employees on MOHRE's website, compared to mainland workers.

How do free zone workers file a labour complaint?

The online service is applicable for both the employer and employee. According to the service, the worker must have a referral letter from a free zone authority. The referral letter contains the reason the complaint and the details of the worker or employer.

There is no cost for registering a complaint online.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to register a free zone complaint.

1. First, to access the service, visit this link:

2. Then Click on ‘start service’

3. Next, type in your full name and mobile number. You will then receive an OTP on your phone, type in the OTP on website and verify it. Then click whether you are an employee or company.

4. After that, you will be transferred to the application form.

5. You will required to fill out the following information:

• Name
• The name of the company or employer you are filing the complaint against.
• Employee mobile number
• Employer mobile number
• Free zone name
• Nationality
• Passport number
• Date of the referral letter issued by the Free zone
• Location of the free zone labour office

6. Next, upload your referral letter and Emirates ID copy into application form.

7. Then, click on ‘Register Complaint’ after that you will receive an SMS confirming the status of your application