ABU DHABI // Emiratis who leave federal government jobs to work in local government will get a full pension by next year, the Minister of State for Finance has promised.
Currently, benefits are not transferred between federal and emirate-level employers, discouraging many from making the move.
It leaves thousands of Emiratis who switched jobs when functions were transferred from federal to local entities unable to access the pension funds they had accrued during decades of work.
A 2006 law provides for the benefits to be transferred, but six years on it has yet to be enacted.
At the Federal National Council last week, Abu Dhabi member, Dr Mohamed bin Ham, quizzed the minister, Obaid Al Tayer, who is also deputy chairman of the General Pension and Social Security Authority, about why the law had not been put into effect.
When Emiratis move from jobs in federal government and to Abu Dhabi government, for example, they are registered with the Abu Dhabi pensions fund.
But previous benefits from the General Pensions Authority are not transferred to the Abu Dhabi pension fund, meaning only the benefits from their job in Abu Dhabi government goes towards their pension.
Dr bin Ham said the problem affected about 5,000 Emiratis.
He raised the issue after being approached by a group of Emiratis who moved from the National Transport Authority to the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.
When they moved in 2008, they were told they would not get their end-of-service benefits, as they would be transferred to the pension fund. They were told the two pension funds were being merged, and they would receive the money from the Abu Dhabi pension fund.
But when they asked to have their two pension pots lumped together, they were "surprised" by the fund's refusal. "They were told that the pension authority was not ready to pay or tie to the pension fund," he said.
Others affected had moved from the Ministry of Health to Health Authority - Abu Dhabi, from the Ministry of Education to the Abu Dhabi Education Council, and from the Ministry of Justice to Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. "And many others," he said. "As you can see, these employees have suffered a lot and are not able to benefit from the merger of their past employments."
Some Emiratis have been forced to delay their retirement to build up a decent pension, he said, while others have less than expected to leave to their children. To avoid that fate, many were now unable to take better jobs for fear of falling in the same trap.
Mr Al Tayer assured Dr bin Ham that the two funds were working together to find a solution "that would not reflect negatively on the authority".
"Now a process has been agreed on, and now we agree on hiring an external auditor to calculate all costs," he said. "We expect him to finish his work towards the second half of January."
After that, the funds will finalise draft bylaws, containing their implementation strategy, and then pass it to the cabinet.
"Then based on that, all future cases and previous cases will be resolved, including military and civil."
Dr bin Ham, however, demanded a date. "I did not get an answer to my question," he said. He asked the minister again when the draft bylaws would be ready. "I want to know when will this new law be passed?"
The minister said it depended on the external auditor, the two authorities' agreement on the last numbers, and the cabinet.
"We expect that it will be out at the end of February, the beginning of March," he said.
Dr bin Ham concluded by telling the council he was "assured" by the final response.
An Emirati who works at the National Qualification Authority, who wished not to be named, said the law would help many.
"It would be great to have the option to move to the local government without losing any benefits," she said.