Working in Abu Dhabi?

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Abu Dhabi at a Glance

Working Conditions in Abu Dhabi

Working in Abu Dhabi is the dream of many expats. Is it yours, too? Then keep in mind that, despite the high numbers of foreigners in Abu Dhabi, securing a lucrative job can be challenging. InterNations offers useful advice on working in Abu Dhabi, including the job search and working conditions.

Labor Laws

To become a long-term resident, expats need to make sure that they will be working in Abu Dhabi throughout their stay. Employment in general and the relationship between employer and employee in particular are regulated by the Ministry of Labor in Abu Dhabi.

The details of all occupations are based on the UAE Labour Law of 1980, which clearly states the duties and responsibilities of employers and employees including details on holidays, worker’s compensation and employment contracts. According to this law, UAE nationals have the right to work. Only if UAE nationals are not suitable or available for a certain position may a company hire foreign workers. In this case, the employer has to prefer Arab nationals over applicants of other nationalities. 

All in all, 85% of the overall labor force in the UAE are expats or migrant workers. This shows that, despite preferential treatment of UAE nationals under the “Emiratisation” measures by the government, Abu Dhabi is open to welcoming foreign residents to its workforce.

Contract and Duration

The Ministry of Labor issues and attests every employment contract in Abu Dhabi. These contracts have to be written and submitted in Arabic or English and abide by the UAE Labor Law. The Ministry of Labor keeps a copy of each employment contract to refer to in case of employment disputes or redundancy. Employer and employee can always review their contract details online if disagreements arise.

It is common to include a probation period in the contract. It should not exceed six months and cannot be extended. In these six months, both employer and employee have the right to end the employment without prior notice. If an employee is dismissed during their probation period, they are not entitled to redundancy benefits. For expats, this situation is an especially problematic one, as loss of employment automatically leads to a loss of their residence permit.

Some expats enter the country on a spousal visa, with their spouse functioning as their sponsor. In this case, they will need a No-Objection Certificate from him or her before they can sign an employment contract. Only then can their employer take care of further paperwork and provide them with a labor card.

Further Advice

Although it may seem unnecessary to give this kind of advice, expats should be aware that their employment contract is a legally binding document, even if it is signed on the spot. Unfortunately, not every employer is interested in fair play. Rushing into an employment in order to secure a work visa can result in a rude awakening. It is therefore important to use the probation period mentioned above to make sure that one has not fallen victim to foul play.

If you are not fluent in Arabic, you may receive an English translation of your work contract. Make sure that the English translation is congruent with the Arabic original. In case of a legal dispute, the Arabic version of their contract will be the one the Ministry of Labor refers to.

Language and Religion

Abu Dhabi is famous for the diversity of its international workforce. That is why English is commonly spoken at the work place, together with Arabic, the UAE’s official language. However, legal documents must be written or translated into Arabic, including university diplomas or marriage certificates, before submitting them to official government agencies.

Any official translation centre in Abu Dhabi or elsewhere can translate such documents. They also have to be verified by the expat’s embassy and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The official religion of the UAE is Islam. However, Abu Dhabi does allow the practice of other faiths. The influence of Islam, though, is still prevalent in social and in professional contexts. That is why non-Muslim expats have to show special sensitivity when they are doing business in Abu Dhabi in order not to violate any rules or upset their business partners and colleagues.

InterNations Expat Magazine