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Dubai: As a working woman in the UAE, how soon should you be informing your management if you are pregnant and would need to apply for a maternity leave? Is there a minimum requirement based on the UAE Labour Law on the advance notice you need to provide? And what is the best practice? These were some of the questions raised by a Gulf News reader.

She wrote in, asking: “I have recently found out that I am pregnant, but I do not wish to disclose the information yet to my office management. This is for personal reasons, as I and my husband would prefer to wait for a few months before we tell people about it. As I am working, I would like to know when I am legally obliged to tell my manager about my pregnancy. I understand that the work would need to be handed over for my maternity leave, so I do not wish to cause any problems for myself or for the people in the office. Is there anything in the UAE law which states when an employee should inform their manager? Also, what is the process for applying for maternity leave? Am I going to get 50 days of leave, and does this include working days or calendar days? What is the advisable way to go forward? I would really appreciate your advice.”

UAE Labour Law

Articles 30 and 31 of Federal Law No. 8 of 1980, also known as the UAE Labour Law, detail the regulations around maternity leaves and work breaks that pregnant women and nursing mothers are entitled to in the workforce.

Article 30 - Maternity Leave
*The female worker shall be entitled to a maternity leave with full payment of the wage thereof, and such for a period of 45 days that include the pre- and postnatal periods, provided that the continuous service period for the employer is of one year at least. The maternity leave shall be granted with half a wage should the worker not have completed the aforesaid period.
*Upon the end of the maternity leave, the worker may remain absent from work without pay for a period of 100 consecutive or non-consecutive days at most should such absence be caused by an illness hindering her from returning to work. Such illness shall be established by means of a medical certificate issued by the medical entity appointed by the competent health authority or ratified by such authority stating that such illness arises from the pregnancy or the delivery.
The leave referred to in the preceding paragraphs shall not be deducted from other leaves.
Article 31
During the period of eighteen months subsequent to the date of delivery, the nursing worker shall be entitled, in addition to the determined rest period, to a two additional periods per day for such purpose, the duration of each thereof not exceeding half an hour.
Such additional periods shall be deemed as part of the working hours and do not entail any deduction of the wage.

According to Mohamed Elmasry, Junior Associate at Al Suwaidi and Company, Advocates and Legal Consultants, the employer shall not terminate the service of a female employee or warn her because of her pregnancy. The termination of employment in this case shall be considered arbitrary according to Article 122 of the UAE Labour Law.

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“The employee shall inform the employer through an official email about the pregnancy and request the 45 days as per the law, when she feels that she needs the leave, which means that there is no time frame or time limit required for sending such an email request to the employer so long as she can perform her tasks properly,” he said.

Parental leave - an additional five days off

Elmasry also added that the recent decree granting private sector employees five days of parental leaves is for both the father and the mother. 

"Accordingly, the female worker is allowed to submit a request for her parental leave once the conditions are fulfilled alongside with the maternity leave," he added.

Best practices

However, Elmasry added that it would be advisable to give one’s management sufficient advance notice to ensure a smooth handover.

“It is preferable to inform your employer about your maternity leave a month before you decide to apply for it. This is not mentioned or required by the law, but it is always better to give a heads-up to your manager for the purpose of handover of tasks. Also, enlighten your employer about the expected delivery date and provide your colleagues with a proper handover,” he added.