Paternity leave
The UAE has introduced paternity leave for the private sector for the first time Image Credit: Mikael Stenberg/ Unsplash

First announced on 30 August 2020, the amendment to the regulation of labour relations made the UAE the first Arab country to introduce paid paternity leave for fathers.

Male employees in the UAE’s private sector shall now be granted a paid "parental leave" for a period of five working days to care for their child, which can be taken within the first six months of the child’s birth.

Here’s everything you need to know about the parental leave decree…

The first paid paternity leave for the private sector

This is the first time that the UAE’s private-sector has been granted paid paternity leave, after an amendment to the UAE Labour Law was approved by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE in August 2020.

It is said that this amendment to the UAE labour law makes the UAE the first Arab country to have a paid paternity leave policy for the private sector.

Working days not calendar days

The decree stipulates that the employee in the private sector shall be granted a paid "parental leave" for a period of five working days to care for the child. This means that an employee's normal weekend off-day would not be included as part of the leave. By contrast, maternity leave allowance for the private sector is 45 calendar days.

The five working days of paid parental leave can be taken from the date of the child's birth until the completion of six months.

What was the UAE paternity leave provision previously?

Previously the UAE did not require private sector companies to provide any kind of parental or paternity leave to male employees, although some companies included an allowance at their own discretion.

Male employees working for the UAE government already had three days’ of parental leave allowance. It is unclear whether this new decree affects the leave of male government employees.

Does the new paid parental leave apply to women?

Although there was originally some uncertainty as to whether this parental leave would also apply to mothers, it is now confirmed that both men and women are able to claim it.

Since the UAE’s maternity-leave allowance for private-sector employees is already 45 calendar days, this in effect gives new mums in the UAE an extra five days of maternal leave, taking the overall parental leave allowance for women working in the private sector up to 50 days.

The UAE government portal says, "the parental leave is a paid leave that can be applied for by both mother and father of the baby". According to the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE), “a federal decree-law amending some provisions of the regulation on labour relations was approved, under which male and female private sector employees are given a paid parental leave for five working days to look after their babies, effective from the baby’s date of birth until he is six months old.

Does the new paid parental leave change if you have twins or multiples?

It is understood the five days of paid parental leave for men would remain the same regardless of the number of children you are having, says Momtaz.

Does the paid parental leave apply if your baby is born outside of the UAE?

The wording of the decree says that the worker is given paid leave, ”to take care of his child,” says Momtaz. This suggests that it may not apply if you are not going to be physically with your baby, although this could be open to interpretation.

What is the difference between parental leave and maternity leave?

"The new parental leave benefit is available for both male and female employees, whereas the statutory maternity leave entitlement is only available for female employees," says lawyer Anna Marshall, senior associate in the employment department at Al Tamimi & Company,.

The parental leave entitlement is also 5 working days, whereas the maternity leave allowance is 45 calendar days. Calendar days means that regular weekend days and any public holidays are included as part of your allowance.

Can a woman add parental leave on to her maternity leave so that she would effectively have 45 calendar days, plus 5 extra days? Could this be viewed as an extended maternity leave?

"Yes, subject to agreement between the employee and their employer, this type of arrangement would be acceptable," says Marshall.

Do you need to have worked at a company for a certain length of time in order to be granted the parental leave?

"There are no specific pre-requisites for the new parental leave entitlement, however it can only be availed up until the baby reaches six months of age.

"This is a positive development and gives due recognition to the importance of both men and women having paid time off to care for and spend time with their newborn babies."

Are fathers (or mothers) required to submit any ‘proof’ in order to be able to receive their parental leave?

"There is no specific legal requirement for the employee to provide these types of documents in order to prove their eligibility, however it is likely that employers will implement their own internal protocols or requirements in order for an employee to avail of the benefit."

Can the parental leave be taken as separate days or must it be taken all at once?

This is not specifically addressed in the Decree, and ultimately the employee would need to seek their employer’s approval for their proposed parental leave dates, regardless of whether they will be taken consecutively or otherwise.

Who is the parental leave decree applicable to right now?

This is not specifically addressed in the Decree however Marshall says their understanding is that the parental leave can be utilized by a male or female employee until their baby is 6 months old, even if their baby was born prior to the Decree coming into effect on 25 September 2020. For example, if a baby was born on 1 July 2020, the mother and father would still have until 31 December 2020 to utilize the parental leave. The Decree itself does not state that the parental leave only applies in relation to babies who are born after the Decree came into effect.

A significant step towards gender equality

This new amendment on paternity leave has been approved alongside a decree on equal pay for women, which states that “a female employee should be paid the exact or similar wage of the male employee if she is doing the same or similar work as a male employee,” says Momtaz. Both of these amendments are significant steps towards gender equality.

The parental leave decree aims to further cement family cohesion and stability, enhance UAE’s position and competitiveness in the field of gender balance, and encourage young talents to work in the private sector, according to the UAE's news service WAM.

The step strengthens the position of the UAE in the field of gender balance and enhances it efforts to create a competitive model that supports the work environment in the private sector.