For women and men working in the UAE, maternity and paternity benefits vary between the private sector and public (government) sector.
The provisions may also be different if you are working under a different jurisdiction such as the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
However, for all employees working in the UAE's private sector, the maternity leave entitlement is 45 days of paid leave, including the time before and after having your baby. But that's not all there is to know. Here are some things you might not have realised about maternity leave in the UAE...
You get paid maternity leave even if you've not yet worked for one year
According to Article 30 of the UAE Labour Law, a woman working in the private sector in the UAE is entitled to a paid maternity leave of 45 days, including the time before and after delivery. If the woman has completed one year of continuous employment for the same employer, she is entitled to full pay during maternity leave. However, if you have been working for your employer for less than one year you are entitled to 45 days of leave at half pay.
Weekends count as part of your maternity allowance
The maternity leave allowance for private-sector employees in the UAE who have completed one year of continuous service is 45 days at full pay – but these are calendar days, not working days. This means that weekends are included as part of the allowance, making it a total of about six weeks off all together. If you have not yet completed one year of continuous service then you are entitled to 45 calendar days of leave at half pay.
Your ‘Full pay’ entitlement is your gross salary
The ‘full pay’ that you are entitled to during your maternity leave is your gross salary, inclusive of both your basic salary and any allowances. If you have not been at your place of employment for more than a year when you go on maternity leave then the ‘half pay’ you are entitled to would be half of your gross salary, inclusive of any allowances.
You can extend your maternity leave by up to 100 unpaid days even if you’re a new employee
After your 45 days of paid maternity leave is over, you are able to extend your leave by up to 100 days of unpaid leave if you have a valid medical certificate stating that the illness resulted from pregnancy or delivery, says Anna Marshall, employment associate at Al Tamimi & Company.
“In relation to the additional 100 days of unpaid leave provided for under the UAE Labour Law, the law does not distinguish between women with more or less than one year of continuous service. The employee’s length of service only affects whether she is entitled to full pay or half pay for the initial 45 calendar days’ statutory maternity leave.”
Your maternity leave allowance can be used before or after you give birth
The 45 days of maternity leave can include time before and after delivery, so if you want to take some paid time off to nest before baby comes then you are entitled to it. However, this will obviously eat away at your overall maternity leave allowance and give you less time to spend with baby once he or she arrives. Nevertheless…
If you’re too sick to work while pregnant, you don’t have to use up your maternity leave
Anna Marshall from Al Tamimi says: “Where an employee is experiencing pregnancy-related health issues and complications during the pregnancy, she would be entitled to sick leave in the normal manner provided she has a valid medical certificate (and this would avoid the need to exhaust the maternity leave entitlement prior to the birth).” As per the UAE Labour Law, you are entitled to a sick leave not exceeding 90 consecutive or non-consecutive days for every year of service, calculated as follows:
- The first fifteen days with full pay.
- The following thirty days with half-pay.
- Any following period without pay.
You can’t be fired for being pregnant
“Pregnancy is not a valid reason for dismissal,” says Anna Marshall. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t lose your job while you are pregnant. “The UAE Labour Law does not include any specific provisions regarding termination of employment during pregnancy. However, if a pregnant woman is dismissed without a valid reason (i.e. other than due to her performance or conduct), she can file an employment claim in the UAE Labour Court,” continues Marshall.
“While the Court would not require the employer to reinstate the employee to her position/role with the company, the Court may award the employee compensation if the Court ultimately determined that she had been dismissed without a valid reason (bearing in mind that pregnancy in itself is not a valid reason for dismissal). The maximum amount of compensation that may be awarded to the employee is 3 months’ gross salary, in addition to her contractual and statutory entitlements such as end of service gratuity.”
Your employer doesn’t have to keep your exact same role open for you
It is possible that your employer could change or shift the scope of your role while you are on maternity, but they can’t reduce the salary of the job you return to. “The UAE Labour Law does not require the employer to keep the same role open for the employee,” says Marshall. “However, the employer is not permitted to reduce the employee’s salary without her written consent, as salary is a fundamental term of employment.”
Your employer can’t terminate your contract while you are on maternity leave
“An employer is not permitted to dismiss an employee while she is on maternity leave,” says Anna Marshall. “However, if an employer did so, the employee’s only legal recourse would be to file a compensation claim against her employer in the UAE Labour Court. In other words, the Court would not require the employer to reinstate the employee to her position/role in the company, even if she had been dismissed while on maternity leave. If an employee was dismissed during maternity leave and did sue her employer for compensation, the employee is likely to be awarded the full amount of compensation due to the circumstances, being 3 months’ gross salary (in addition to the employee’s contractual and statutory entitlements such as end of service gratuity) and potentially the remaining balance of the maternity pay due to her.”
Your maternity leave counts towards your end-of-service gratuity
“For end-of-service gratuity purposes, the 45 calendar day period of statutory maternity leave is counted towards the employee’s length of service,” says Al Tamimi’s Anna Marshall. “The law is silent as to whether the additional 100 calendar days of unpaid maternity leave due to a pregnancy or birth-related sickness (as provided for under the UAE Labour Law) would also count for gratuity purposes, however in our view it also would.
However, where the employer has simply granted the employee an additional period of unpaid leave in order to extend her maternity leave (i.e. rather than due to any pregnancy or delivery related illness), such period of unpaid leave would not be taken into account for end of service gratuity purposes.
Fathers in the UAE are now entitled to 5 days of paid paternity leave
Male employees in the UAE’s private sector are now entitled to five working days of paid parental leave, to be taken within the first six months of the baby’s birth. This was introduced 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.
Mothers in the UAE are now entitled to an extra 5 days of parental leave
The 2020 amendment to the UAE Labour Law also grants an additional five days of paid parental leave to women as well, which can be taken at any time within the first six months of your baby's birth. These are working days, and may be spread out however you like, as long as they are taken within the first six months of your baby's birth. These five paid working days of parental leave are in addition to the paid maternity leave allowance of 45 calendar days. This effectively means women are entitled to 50 days of paid leave after having a baby.
The maternity leave provisions apply wherever you are in the UAE
“The maternity leave provisions of the UAE Labour Law apply equally across all of the Emirates,” says Anna Marshall. “However, different maternity leave entitlements are provided for under the Federal and Emirate-level civil service laws, the DIFC Employment Law and the ADGM Employment Regulations, respectively.” The maternity leave allowances for Government employees (rather than private-sector employees) in most of the emirates, including Dubai, are a bit more generous, with most offering at least 60 days of paid leave (although not all at full pay). Meanwhile the law for DIFC employees is also more generous, offering 65 days of paid leave: 33 working (not calendar) days of full pay, followed by 32 working days at half pay.