x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The plan with broad appeal for Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Model Economies: The National's special series on the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 examines how the capital is trying to grow the number of small and medium-sized firms here.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from other parts of the world certainly took notice when the Abu Dhabi Government released its Economic Vision 2030 and began a series of legislative reforms to spur the growth of businesses in the Emirates.

"We looked at the 2030 vision. That was one of the pulls for us to come," says Quentin Lowcay, the managing partner at the Abu Dhabi office of Kensington Swan, a law firm based in New Zealand.

"It was actually looking at that document and the first strategic plan, and identifying where we could fit in and what kinds of services we could offer … [which became] a targeted approach."

New categories of workplace permits that took effect this year now make it possible for owners of SMEs to bring on board students at the high school or university level.

"The student element is particularly useful for SMEs because students are quite often a useful seasonal resource looking for work during their vacations and are well-skilled," says Elizabeth Williamson, an associate at Clyde & Co, a legal consultancy with offices in the UAE.

Similarly, new part-time permits are now available. "This will allow SMEs to keep their cost to a minimum, because if they only need someone for a couple of hours a day, initially, that will now be possible," says Ms Williamson.

These different types of permits are expected to benefit business owners in other ways, too, such as when they're looking to recruit a new team or working on a specific task, such as a marketing project.

Another upside: owners could take a more conservative approach by hiring employees on a temporary basis then recruit them permanently as and when needed.

Yet, Ms Williamson warns, the UAE's labour laws do not yet make any distinction between full-time and part-time employees when it comes to benefits such as sick leave, holidays and end-of-service rewards.

* Neil Parmar