UAE women working in the private-sector will also benefit from the recently introduced parental leave
UAE women working in the private-sector will also benefit from the recently introduced parental leave Image Credit: Jonathan Borba/ Unsplash

An amendment to the UAE labour law granting male employees five days’ of paid paternity leave following the birth of their baby applies to women too, it is now confirmed.

The new parental leave period of five working days is valid from the day of the baby’s birth until he or she reaches six months old, and it can be claimed by both fathers and mothers. This extra five days can be used in addition to the already-established maternity leave allowance for women.

Parental leave in UAE

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.

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.

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 6sixmonths old.

“The federal decree grants a unique advantage to private-sector employees of both sexes to bolster their family role during the period of caring for their babies. Granting a leave for the father under the new legislation is regarded as a significant development in the UAE labour market and underscores the baby’s need to be looked after by both parents after this job has been assumed by the working mother only.

“The decree benefits a broad base of private sector employees who represent a large proportion of UAE residents. This will promote the UAE’s position, which is based on humanitarian considerations and will greatly support the UAE’s efforts in the field of Emiratisation, as it will render the private sector more attractive to the highly qualified national staff, who will be more motivated to join it.

The difference between maternity leave and parental leave for women in the UAE

We spoke to Anna Marshall, senior associate, and her colleagues in the employment department at Al Tamimi & Company, about the difference between maternity leave and parental leave for women in the UAE:

Who does the new parental leave entitlement apply to?

"The new parental leave entitlement applies to both male and female employees working in the private sector in the UAE, apart from those working in the Dubai International Financial Centre or the Abu Dhabi Global Market (which are separate free zones with their own employment laws and regulations)."

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 Marshall.

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.

Can the parental leave be taken in addition to the 100 sick days of unpaid leave that may be taken, if necessary, by a new mother in the UAE?

Yes, the new parental leave benefit is separate (and in addition) to the unpaid sick leave days which a female employee may be entitled to under the UAE Labour Law.

Who is the parental leave decree applicable to right now?

This is not specifically addressed in the Decree however our 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.

Read 8 Things you may not have realised about your maternity leave allowance in the UAE.

Maternity leave in UAE: What are your rights? 

For women working in Dubai, maternity benefits vary slightly between the private sector and public sector.

UAE maternity leave for the private sector

Women working in the private sector of the UAE are entitled to 45 calendar days of leave at full pay for those employees who have completed one year of continuous service as at the date of birth.

If a woman has been working for less than one year of continuous service at the date of her child’s birth, she is entitled to 45 calendar days of leave at half pay.

Maternity leave pay in both scenarios is gross salary, meaning it is inclusive of basic and allowances.

The leave is calculated based on calendar days (not working days), which means that weekends are included as part of the allowance. This roughly equates to just over six weeks. There is now an additional 5 working days of parental leave, as explained above, granted to women on top of this.

Maternity leave may be taken before or after the baby’s delivery.

However, “where an employee is experiencing pregnancy-related health issues and complications prior to the birth, she would be entitled to sick leave in the normal manner, provided she has a valid medical certificate,” says Anna Marshall, employment and incentives lawyer at law firm Al Tamimi.

As per the UAE Labour Law, private-sector employees are entitled to a sick leave not exceeding 90 consecutive or non-consecutive days for every year of service, calculated as follows:

a - The first fifteen days with full pay.

b - The following thirty days with half-pay.

c - Any following period without pay.

Extension of maternity leave in private sector due to sickness

After a woman’s 45 days of paid maternity leave is over, she is able to extend her leave by up to 100 days of unpaid leave if she has a valid medical certificate stating that the illness resulted from pregnancy or delivery, says Anna Marshall, employment associate at Al Tamimi & Company.

This leave can be taken if the employee is unable to return to work due to an illness related to the pregnancy or delivery. The period of up to one hundred (100) days can be taken as consecutive or non-consecutive days.

In such instances the employee would be expected to provide a medical certificate issued by a medical authority attested by the competent health authority or endorsed by such authorities. This entitlement is specifically if the employee cannot resume work due to an illness related to the pregnancy or delivery. This entitlement is in addition to any other type of leave.

“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.”

Paid breastfeeding break for female employees of the private sector

On returning to work after the maternity leave period, and for a period of up to eighteen (18) months from the date of delivery, a female employee is entitled to two (2) nursing breaks of half an hour each, per day. These two (2) additional nursing breaks are with pay therefore not result in any salary deduction. Quite often employers allow the nursing mother to combine the two (2) breaks and shorten the working day by one (1) hour

Maternity leave and end-of-service gratuity in the private sector

During the maternity leave period, other benefits such as annual leave accrual or end of service will continue to accrue.

“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.

But in instances 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.”