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A Comparative Analysis of the Old and New UAE Labour Laws and its Impact on Worker’s Rights


Labour laws constitute an important role in safeguarding and guaranteeing employees’ rights and interests in any country. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has lately implemented significant reforms to its labour policy, with the goal of improving worker rights and creating a more efficient and equitable employment environment. This article examines the previous UAE labour law against the new UAE labour law, laying out the key distinctions and evaluating their impact on workers. By analysing these revisions, we will be able to gain insight into the new labour law’s efficacy at improving worker rights.

I. An Overview of Old UAE Labour Law

The former UAE labour law, referred to as the “Old Labour Law,” Federal Law No. 8 of 1980, established the legal foundation for regulating and governing relationships between employers and employees in the country. While it guaranteed some worker protection, it was critiqued for various shortcomings that hindered the full implementation of employees’ rights.

Under previous labour law, there were worries pertaining to the kafala system, which restricted migrant employees’ legal status to their employers, potentially triggering abuse oppression. The system generated an unjust balance of power between employers and employees, making it impossible for employees to find alternative employment or leave the nation without approval from their employer. This dependency made workers more vulnerable, limiting their mobility and negotiating strength.

II. Key Reforms in the United Arab Emirates Labour Law

To address the drawbacks of previous legislation and advocate for the rights of workers, the UAE passed Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021. The new law proposes significant changes in many different areas, notably employment agreements, hours of labour, leave benefits, termination procedures, and kafala reforms.

i. Employment Contracts

Fixed-term employment agreements were common under old labour regulations, that often brought about job insecurity for employees. The recently implemented rule made indefinite-term contracts a mandatory option, providing employees with greater stability and employment security. Employers have to provide an agreement in writing explaining the terms and conditions of work within 10 days of the commencement of employment.

Additionally, the new law seeks to reduce migrant employees’ reliance on their employers through the implementation of a new work permit system. Subject to specific constraints, the system permits workers to change employers within the country without the approval of their present employer. This shift gives workers increased freedom and mobility in their pursuit of better job opportunities.

ii. Working Hours

The old labour laws allowed long hours of work without limitations. Nevertheless, the new labour law implements a maximum per week of 48 working hours, Overtime is permitted, but it must be reimbursed at a higher rate.

Furthermore, the new regulation requires businesses to provide at least one rest day every week, which might help employees achieve a better work-life balance. These regulations help to protect workers from exploitation by requiring them to work long hours. The old labour law lacked a provision to combat long working hours without strict regulations.

However, the new labour law establishes a maximum limit of 48 working hours per week, with a maximum of 8 hours per day, or 6 hours for hazardous or strenuous work. Overtime work is allowed but must be compensated at a higher rate.

Moreover, the new law mandates that employers provide at least one rest day per week, which can contribute to better work-life balance for employees. These provisions help prevent the exploitation of workers through excessive working hours and ensure their well-being.

iii. Leave Entitlements

The new labour law significantly expands workers’ leave privileges. Annual leave is increased to 30 calendar days per year, with additional allowances for public holidays and weekends.

Maternity leave has been extended to 45 days, with the option of taking further time if necessary. Furthermore, male employees can now take up to 5 days of paternity leave. Workers are enjoying extra time for relaxation, recuperation, and personal commitments as a result of expanded leave privileges. It recognises the significance of work-life balance and fosters employee well-being.

Under the new labour law, UAE has also introduced compassionate leaves. They granted to employees in two cases classified as Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is granted for five days in event of the death of the spouse and type 2 is granted for three days in the event of death of other relatives.

iv. Termination Procedures

The previous labour law permitted employers to terminate contracts without giving any explanation. The new labour law imposed more stringent requirements on organisations, requiring employers to demonstrate legitimate explanations for dismissal and to follow proper procedures. It also stipulates a period of notice of one to three months, depending on the duration of the job.

These alterations offer workers greater job security and safeguard them from arbitrary dismissal. With the new laws being implemented employees can prepare for potential unemployment and seek new employment.

III. Efficacy of the New Labour Law in Strengthening Workers’ Rights

The new UAE labour law is a significant advancement towards strengthening and enhancing workers’ rights. It consists of provisions that address key concerns made by international organisations. By evaluating the efficiency of the new labour law, we can assess its impact on improving worker’s rights in the UAE.

i. Job Security and Stability

The introduction of indefinite-term contracts as the norm in the new labour law enhances workers’ job security and stability. This modification reduces the use of short-term contracts and offers people a greater confidence in their jobs. Workers can now focus on their professional growth and long-term career development, which boosts their overall well-being and productivity.

The kafala system reforms, such as giving workers the chance to change employers within the country, contribute to decreasing migrant workers’ vulnerabilities. It gives them an opportunity to search for better and greater possibilities and increases their ability to negotiate in the job market.

ii. Fair Working Hours

The new labour law’s limitation on working hours ensures that employees have adequate time for rest and personal commitments. The maximum limit of 48 working hours per week protects workers from excessive workloads and contributes to work-life balance. This provision is crucial in preserving the physical and mental health of workers, improving their productivity and job satisfaction.

iii. Appropriate Working Hours

Working hours are limited under the new labour regulation, ensuring that employees have enough time for rest and personal commitments. The weekly maximum of 48 hours protects workers from heavy workloads and promotes work-life balance. This provision is essential for employees’ physical and mental health, as well as their productivity and workplace happiness.

iv. Stricter Termination Procedures

The more stringent limits on termination in the new labour law aim to prevent arbitrary dismissals and safeguard workers from unjust treatment. The demand for justification and proper procedures guarantees that termination decisions are justified. This provision provides workers with greater job security and protects them from potential employer exploitation.

IV. Reforms to the Kafala System

The kafala reforms represent a big step forward in safeguarding the rights of migrant workers in the UAE. The new law lowers the possibility of being exploited and abused through permitting workers to change employers within the country, subject to certain conditions. Plundering of wages and contractual disputes are reduced via electronic employment agreements and wage protection mechanisms, which promote transparency and accountability. The creation of a grievance procedure enables workers to seek justice and redress in the case of labour violations.


The recently revised UAE labour law provides an extensive growth in rights for employees. The modifications that have been made to employment contracts, working hours, leave entitlements, termination procedures, and kafala system reforms demonstrate a commitment to establishing a fair and equitable work environment. The new labour law has substantially enhanced worker rights in the UAE through boosting job security, decreasing working hours, expanding leave privileges, tightening termination procedures, and addressing complaints about the kafala system.

While it is too preliminary to assess the long-term impact of the new labour law, initial signs show that it has enhanced worker welfare. Implementation and enforcement of these reforms, as well as continuous evaluation and monitoring, will be essential in ensuring the long-term improvement of the rights of employees in the UAE.