Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has recently published the first annual Worker Welfare Report.

The 2015 report focuses on measures to ensure that all workers who come to the UAE are recruited and employed equitably, are safe in their place of work, and are free to advance professionally and personally.

The report is part of a drive to increase transparency around labour issues, improve data reporting and ensure that discussion around transnational labour mobility and economic development is frank and fair.

“The UAE’s workforce is our greatest asset: the driver of growth that enables economic diversification and secures the future for tomorrow’s generation,” said Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

“The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation is committed to ensuring our workforce is protected and that its dynamism is harnessed for the good of all. Therefore the ministry has launched a series of initiatives and decrees to promote workers welfare in the country, most notably, standardising labour contracts in order to promote clarity and transparency for workers and employers,” he added.

New decrees allowing workers to change employers

Ghobash elaborated on new decrees that “enable workers to move freely between employers, as well as evaluating and reviewing every aspect of working in the emirates from recruitment to housing and making significant reforms designed to ensure all workers are treated respectfully at all times, and able to report instances of maltreatment easily.”

He said that the ministry has appointed 63 legal professionals to help resolve labour disputes, and trained 100 members of staff to facilitate the process of dispute resolution. The ministry has also implemented a new, dynamic smart inspection system to enable the Inspectors focus their efforts on higher risk business establishments.

Report describes UAE growth

The report begins by describing the UAE’s exponential growth in recent decades as a global centre of commerce and tourism which has been achieved thanks to the hard work of millions of people from all over the world.

People from all corners of the planet travel to UAE to contribute to its growth, putting their skills to use to build and operate the institutions and infrastructure that are now the lifeblood of the national economy.

“The United Arab Emirates is proud to host such a diverse, eclectic population. Proud, too, that at a time of economic slowdown in many parts of the world, the United Arab Emirates continued to create jobs and offer opportunities for people to better themselves, and better the prospects of their families and home nations, which directly benefits some of the world’s poorest communities, enabling access to health and education, created sustainable societies, and raised standards of living in recipient countries,” the report said.

The report goes on to say that UAE remains a young country undergoing dramatic change and huge economic growth. That brings significant challenges in terms of the management of the labour market.

It is vital, however, that all workers in the UAE enjoy employment protections that conform to the highest standards of international best practice and law, which is why the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation is at the forefront of driving reform to protect workers. Only by upholding the reputation of the nation as an equitable provider of employment and continue attracting the brightest and most skilled workers from around the world.

The protection of workers is fundamental to the ongoing work of the Ministry of Human Resource and Emiratisation, the report reads. Over the course of 2015, the Ministry undertook significant steps to ensure worker protection, including reviewing legislation and regulatory oversight, improving dispute resolution systems and increasing transparency.

“We can’t deny that many non-national workers have faced in the past many malpractices by recruitment agents. Consequently, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has been cooperating with countries of origin to improve practices within the recruitment industry as a priority issue,” the report said.

Monitoring recruitment practices

According to the report, the ministry continues to closely monitor the practices of recruitment companies and take immediate actions when violations take place. In 2015 the ministry suspended the licenses of recruitment agencies that violated recruitment practices.

Moving on to describe measures to  enhance contract transparency, the report remarks that no employer in the UAE can engage workers against their will or on terms that do not meet UAE labour standards. All employment contracts in the UAE must be consensual by nature and both parties have the right to terminate an employment contract at any time, in accordance with the terms and provisions of the contract.

Under new standards, the ministry holds employers responsible for attesting in the standard contract to the fact that workers have not been charged any recruitment fees. In 2015, the ministry took steps to ensure the contracts workers are asked to sign are standardised, to prevent contract substitution and to promote clarity and transparency.

Package of labour reforms

The ninistry launched a package of reforms designed to promote transparency regarding fixed-term and unlimited contracts. Henceforth, no expatriate worker can be recruited from overseas for employment in the UAE until he or she has been presented with a standard job offer that conforms to the UAE Standard Employment Contract.

The standard job offer is available in eleven languages and must be signed in the employee’s country of origin before his or her work permit can be processed. The Ministry also works to ensure that all workers obtain a copy of UAE employment law without charge, so that they know their rights.

The report goes on to assert that the UAE  has cultivated partnerships with international organisations, and works closely with the governments of labour sending countries to ensure that their citizens are protected while in the UAE.  

The report elaborates that the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation recognises that “A vital step in ensuring worker welfare is making sure workers are aware of their labour rights.”

Access to Labour offices

The Ministry ensures that workers throughout the country have easy access to government representatives at conveniently located Labour offices. Workers are encouraged to visit a Labour office at any time to report concerns or to ask for guidance on any issue. There are five Labour offices in the UAE: two in Abu Dhabi, two in Dubaiand one in Sharjah.

Additionally, ministry representatives carry out frequent site visits to promote awareness of worker rights.  In the summer of 2015, the Ministry’s Guidance department made thousands of site outreach visits to stress to workers and employers the importance of the midday break for worker welfare. The meetings were also a useful occasion at which to listen to worker concerns regarding heat exhaustion and employment conditions.

During such visits, the ministry printed out and distributed thousands of awareness-raising posters highlighting the dangers of midday work, translated the ministerial decree ‘Prohibiting midday work’ into ten languages and published the decree on the ministry’s website. The ministry has also translating the decree detailing midday working hours law into three languages.