UAE Ministerial Resolution No. 279 of 2020 offers new guidance for employers

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) has unveiled a new Ministerial Resolution (No. 279 of 2020), offering guidelines for employers based onshore in navigating employment-related actions amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic. This directive, effective from 26 March 2020, introduces measures intended to remain effective as long as other Covid-19 related precautionary actions are in force.

This resolution is a boon for onshore employers, legitimising actions many are contemplating or have already put into practice. Although it explicitly applies to all onshore employers under MOHRE’s regulation, its adoption across the UAE’s various free zones remains to be seen. Notably, the resolution’s protections extend only to non-national employees, distinguishing them from UAE nationals who benefit from broader protections under existing legislation.

Here are the salient features of the Resolution as it pertains to business contingency planning, which our clients may find beneficial. The resolution suggests a “gradual” implementation of these measures, a process whose practical requirements are yet to be fully clarified, such as whether the measures should follow a specific sequence or impact order.

What is the benefit of having HRMS

Remote Working

The resolution permits affected onshore companies to adopt remote working systems in response to the ongoing efforts to curb Covid-19’s spread. Further guidance on implementing these remote working systems is provided in Ministerial Resolution No. 281 of 2020, published on 29 March 2020.

Paid Leave

Under the Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 (Labour Law), employers can dictate when employees should take their annual leave, now reinforced by the resolution, albeit suggesting “agreement” should be sought. This strategy, however, might need reconsideration as travel restrictions ease, potentially leaving employees with insufficient leave to visit family abroad.

Unpaid Leave

The resolution introduces the concept of unpaid leave, agreed upon mutually by employers and employees, a welcome clarification given its previous ambiguity under the Labour Law. This option could serve as an alternative to dismissals, offering employees the retention of their medical insurance in the UAE amidst current travel bans.

Temporary Salary Reduction

Employers can temporarily reduce salaries with the employee’s consent, following a specific procedure outlined in the resolution. This includes creating a temporary addendum to the MOHRE employment contract, to be kept by both parties and presented to MOHRE upon request, detailing the duration of the salary reduction.

Permanent Salary Reduction and Redundancies

For permanent salary reductions, employer and employee consent is required, with an official amendment to the MOHRE employment contract. The resolution, while sanctioning certain measures, does not explicitly endorse redundancies. Instead, it offers guidance for employers with excess non-national employees, suggesting registration on the MOHRE’s Virtual Labour Market for alternative employment opportunities, with a continuation of accommodation and entitlements until they leave the UAE or find new employment.

Hiring and Additional Considerations

The resolution facilitates hiring processes for onshore employers by directing them to list vacancies on the Virtual Labour Market and seek electronic work permissions for suitable candidates. Moreover, the amendment of Federal Law No. 14 of 2014 to include Covid-19 among communicable diseases mandates immediate notification to the Ministry of Health by anyone aware of or suspecting an infection, under penalty of imprisonment or fines.

This suite of measures provided by the MOHRE offers a range of sanctioned options short of dismissal, enabling employers to navigate the challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis while retaining staff for future needs.

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