A normal morning scene on Bank Street, Bur Dubai, with people going about their business of the day, eyes focused on what lies ahead of them at work or wherever they are headed. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf news archives

Dubai: New figures illustrate a wide disparity between government and private sector job benefits following calls for more equity between both sectors of the UAE workforce.

Numbers show there is a noticeable gap in salaries, benefits, holidays, annual leave, end of service and other issues between public and private sectors.

According to latest statistics issued by the Ministry of Labour, there are about 3.8 million workers in 285,000 firms in the private sector in the UAE.

The number of government sector workers that make up the remainder of the UAE’s 8.3 million population was not provided.

In the majority of cases, government sector employees work only five days a week and are granted two-day weekends entitling them to 96 days off a year — excluding 30 annual leave days per annum.

That compares to those working in the private sector establishments, the majority of whom work six days a week, giving them only 48 days off a year, not including 30 days annual leave annually.

Public sector employees are awarded at least 13 official individual holidays a year, while the private sector gets 10.

The government sector staff gets a two-day holiday for National Day celebrations, the private sector is given one day.

The public sector gets a three-day break for Eid Al Fitr, when employees of private firms get two days. And for Eid Al Adha, the government sector gets four days’ holiday, while the private sector gets three days and in some years two when one of those days is a Friday and they are not compensated for that.

Saqr Gobash Saeed Gobash, Minister of Labour, told Gulf News that some of the differences between the private and public sector include the number of working hours and sick leave. While government sector employees work for six hours, private sector staff work for eight hours.

The minister of labour said the public sector employee gets a full year’s sick leave, while private sector workers get 15 days.

According to the UAE labour law, employees are entitled to two days off every month during their probationary period [first six months in the job] and thereafter 30 days each year.

The Federal labour law is applicable in some of the free zones in the UAE, such as the Jebel Ali Free Zone and it is of course applied to all staff and employees working in the private sector in the UAE, whether Emiratis or expatriates.

There are certain categories of individuals who are exempted from the labour law which include staff and workers employed by the federal government, government departments, municipalities, public bodies, federal and local public institutions and those staff and workers employed in federal and local governmental projects, members of the armed forces, police and security units, domestic workers, partners in a business and investors.

According to the labour law, if the employer terminates the contract for reasons other than those specified in the provisions of the law, the employer will be liable for payment of compensation to the employee. This compensation is determined on the basis of the wages due for a period of three months or for the remaining period of the contract, whichever is less, unless an article in the contract states otherwise.

The contract may be terminated by mutual agreement or by either of the parties providing the other with a minimum of 30 days notice of termination.

The contract may be terminated for a justified cause at any time, giving at least 30-days’ notice of termination. The notice period may be less for employees working on a daily basis.

The employee’s wages during the notice period should be paid in full for the entire notice period served.

In the event that no notice has been given, the party who ought to have given notice must compensate the other with payment of at least 30 days’ wages in lieu of the notice period.

The employee will be entitled to compensation if the termination of the contract was for an unjustified cause.

Compensation for damages, if any, awarded to the employee for unreasonable dismissal are without prejudice to the employee’s entitlement to end of service gratuity and payments in lieu of notice, if notice had not been properly given.

The probation period can be for a maximum period of six months. Once completed, the probation period is considered part of the overall employment term and is taken into account when calculating gratuity and other terminal benefits. All wages and benefits accrued during the probation period must be paid along with repatriation costs. The employer is, however, not required to pay end of service gratuity or compensation in lieu of notice or damages should the employment contract be terminated without notice during the probationary period. If the employee, however, resigns during his probation period without a good cause he is liable for payment of his own repatriation cost.

The employer or the ministry will calculate gratuity on the basis of the basic wage, which excludes housing, transportation and any allowance.

Wages may be paid on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis. The parties may mutually agree on the manner in which wages are paid or remitted. Wages may be paid in the UAE or elsewhere.

If circumstances require the employee to work on a Friday, he or she is entitled to receive a rest day in lieu to be taken at a later date or be paid his basic wage plus an additional 50 per cent (minimum) of that wage.

For every year of service, an employee is entitled to annual leave of not less than two days leave for every month if his service is more than six months and less than one year with a minimum of 30 days annually, if his or her service exceeds one year.

An employee is paid his basic wage plus the housing allowance, if applicable, and any other allowances which he or she receives in the normal working month. An employee is entitled to an official holiday with full wage on the following occasions: Occasion Time Off: Hijri New Year’s Day one day, one day for New Year’s, two days for Eid Al Fitr and three days for Eid Al Adha, Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) birthday one day, Isra and Al Miraj one day, National Day one day.

The holidays are applicable to all employees whether they are working in the public or private sector. However, public sector employees may be granted additional days off to those specified on the above occasions, which are announced from time to time.

It is up to private sector employers to grant their employees a holiday on the above occasions or to pay them instead.

The calculation of the duration of annual leave includes holidays specified by law or by agreement, or any day taken, for example, due to sickness, if they fall within the leave period and are deemed to be part thereof.

The employee is not entitled to any paid sick leave during the probation period. However, after a period of three months continuous service following the probation period, the employee is entitled to sick leave wages.

A working woman is entitled to 45 days’ maternity leave with full pay which includes the period before and after the delivery, provided she has served continuously for not less than one year. The maternity leave is granted with half pay if the woman has not completed one year of service.

At the end of the maternity leave, a working woman has the right to extend her maternity leave for a maximum period of l0 days without pay. This unpaid leave can be continuous or interrupted, if the interruption is caused by illness which prevents her from coming to work. The illness must be confirmed by a certified government physician licensed by the competent health authority.

Maternity leave in either of the above cases is not deducted from any other leave that a female employee is entitled to.

During the 18 months following delivery, a female employee who nurses her child has the right to have two daily intervals which do not exceed half an hour each for the purpose of nursing her child.

The Pensions and Social Securities Law concerns Emiratis employed in both the public and private sectors. It provides, among other things, for certain contributions to be made by the employee and the employer to the Public Authority of Pensions and Social Securities. For a person employed in the public sector these contributions are equivalent to five per cent of the contributory pension salary to be paid by the employee and 15 per cent of the contributory pension salary payable by the employer. As for the private sector, the government shall bear 2.5 per cent of the 15 per cent share payable by the employer as contributions to the Authority.


The Human Resources Management Law for government employees relates to employment, attendance, overtime, probation, gratuity and allowances, employee appraisal and promotions and annual leave among other issues.

Among others, similar agreements have employers fully cover employees for fees associated with the recruitment process, including those relating to visas, medical examinations and the use of recruitment agencies, without deductions being imposed on their payment.

Employees will work no more than eight hours a day, five days a week, except for those working in construction-related activities, who will work no more than eight hours a day, six days a week. Overtime will only be worked voluntarily, and will be compensated at premium rates.

Employees are entitled to 30 calendar days of paid annual leave each year. Employees shall receive leave with full pay for 10 UAE public holidays each year. In addition, employees will be granted two additional days per year for other religious holidays to be taken at their discretion.

Foreign employees shall receive employer-funded air travel between the UAE and their country of origin for expatriation at the beginning of their employment, for repatriation at the end of their employment, and one additional trip, per year, to be used in conjunction with vacation leave.

The official working hours, excluding those working on a shift basis, shall be entitled to overtime pay as compensation for working beyond the official working hours of 40 hours per week or 30 hours per week during the holy month of Ramadan.

Employees working on a shift basis shall be entitled to overtime pay for the extra hours worked in excess of the prescribed shift hours, provided that the prescribed shift hours are not less than 40 hours per week.

Based on work requirements and needs, vacant posts in governmental departments shall be filled by any of the following employment types: Full-time employment, part-time employment, temporary employment.

Emiratis shall be appointed pursuant to decisions or employment contracts issued by the competent recruitment authority. Expatriates can be appointed by renewable fixed term employment contracts.

The government department may appoint employees on a temporary basis for a non-renewable period not exceeding one year. The employee appointed on temporary basis shall be paid a monthly lump sum salary commensurate with his or her grade and with work hours done, and shall not be eligible for any of the benefits, bonuses or allowances payable to full-time employees.

In case an employee is recruited from outside the country, he or she can be given an advance payment of not more than one month’s total salary to assist him or her to settle here. This advance payment can be deducted over three monthly instalments..

When appointed, a new employee shall be subject to probationary period of at least three months, extendable to another three months. During this probation period, the immediate supervisor shall evaluate the performance of the employee to decide whether or not to confirm the employee in the post. If the employee is not confirmed in the post within the first three months of employment, the probation period will be extended automatically for another three months.

Subject to a five-day prior notice, service of an employee may be terminated during the probation period by a decision of the competent authority if it ascertains that the employee is not competent for the post, or unable to perform the duties of the post to which he or she is appointed, or due to unsatisfactory performance. The decision of the competent authority in this regard must be reasoned.

Subject to serving a five-day prior notice an employee has the right to resign during the probation period. If the employee who has resigned is recruited from outside the country, he must refund all recruitment expenses including tickets for him and his family members, visa fees, residence permit fees and medical test fees as well as temporary accommodation charges, if any.

Minimum salary of Emiratis will be determined by the authority based on the recommendations of the Human Resources Department.

Eemployees must use their annual leave during the year. Employees are not entitled to carry over more than one half of the annual leave entitlement to the following year.

Emirati employees can be granted a special leave with total salary for a maximum of three months per year in order to undertake any activities or duties related to participation in national teams, competitions, sport activities, social or cultural programmes or similar activities not related to the business of the department and which require the participation of the employee.

The leave can be extended for a period not exceeding one month each time. Special leave to accompany relatives for medical treatment may be granted to Emirati employees to three months with full salary to accompany a first or second degree relative for overseas medical treatment. Such leave can be extended to an additional three months with basic salary.

Based on a report issued by an officially accredited medical authority the Emirati employee can be given special leave with full salary for up to two months to accompany his spouse or any of his first degree relatives who receives medical treatment here. If necessary this leave may be extended to another two months with basic salary.

Employees may be granted unpaid leave of up to 60 days per year provided that such employee has valid reasons to obtain this leave and has already utilised his annual leave entitlement.

An expatriate employee is entitled to annual air tickets on the anniversary of the date of joining his post. The air ticket allowance shall be paid in cash to the employee and his family members irrespective of whether or not they use it to travel.

Retirement of Emiratis or termination of service of anexpatriate employee in accordance with approved restructuring plans, absence from work without valid reason for more than 15 consecutive days or 21 non-consecutive days per year and also the replacement of the expatriate employee in accordance with the approved Emiratisation and employee replacement plans or termination of service due to lack of professional competence

An employee will not be entitled to end of service gratuity if his period of service is less than one year.