x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Workers and bosses welcome changes to labour law

The main goal is to ensure transparency and compliance in matters related to labour contracts, including terms of termination. The reforms will be introduced in January next year.

Minister of Labour Saqr Ghobash gives journalists an overview of labour reforms that aim to tighten oversight of employment agreements for temporary migrant workers. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
Minister of Labour Saqr Ghobash gives journalists an overview of labour reforms that aim to tighten oversight of employment agreements for temporary migrant workers. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

ABU DHABI // New reforms to the Labour Law were welcomed by expatriate workers and bosses.

The changes will come into force from January 1 through three decrees, the Ministry of Labour said.

The main goal is to ensure transparency and compliance in matters related to labour contracts, including terms of termination.

Emirati businessman Sanad Al Meqbali said the new laws would benefit both the employer and the employee.

“We welcome these reforms as they not only protect the workers but also their employers,” said Mr Al Meqbali, who owns Enjazat Services, an Abu Dhabi-based services provider with more than 200 staff.

Mr Al Meqbali, who also sits on the board of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the changes would provide more flexibility.

“With the reduced time for transferring employees and their contracts, companies will be able to quickly put workers in the right positions, while employees will have better ability to find the job they want,” he said.

Under the new policies, prospective foreign workers would be asked to sign a standard employment offer in their home country, which would be filed with the Ministry of Labour before a work permit was issued. That agreement would then be registered as a legal contract once the worker arrived in the country, and no changes would be allowed unless they were additional benefits that the worker agreed to.

Three new labour rules issued by the Ministry of Labour include ministry-approved contracts, conditions for terminating employees and labour permits to work for new employers.

Contracts can be terminated by either side under terms spelt out in a ministry decree. Once that is done workers are free to switch to a new employer.

The labour reforms would also curb abuse of foreign workers by employers, said Cristina Magallon, chief editor of UAE DNA Blogazine, a Dubai-based online publication.

“We hear so many sad stories about contracts not honoured by abusive employers that left the expat no choice but do the will of the employer,” she said.

Having had to leave the country herself after a potential employer did not honour her contract, Ms Magallon, a Filipina, said she was glad the new laws would help to prevent such situations.

The new rules for recruitment, termination and changing jobs were good news for blue-collar workers such as Mohammed Momin Khan, a Pakistani foreman who was forced to work as a bus driver. He planned to switch once the new law came into force. “I worked as a foreman but situations forced me to become a bus driver. I have to spend two years in this company, which is a burden on me.”

Mr Khan earns Dh1,200 a month as a driver. As a foreman he used to earn double the pay.

Cleaner Hassan Ali, who earns Dh600 a month, also welcomed the new rules. “For five years I have worked with the same company and not a single penny was increased in my salary,” said the Bangladeshi.

anwar@thenational.ae

tsubaihi@thenational.ae