x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Ministry of Labour clarifies job-switch rules

A Ministry of Labour official has appeared on two live radio shows to clear up widespread confusion about new regulations designed to make it easier for expatriates to switch jobs.

A construction worker from Rajasthan waits for the labour bus to take him back to his accommodation after working on a project in the Dubai Marina.
A construction worker from Rajasthan waits for the labour bus to take him back to his accommodation after working on a project in the Dubai Marina.

ABU DHABI // A Ministry of Labour official appeared on two live radio shows yesterday to clear up widespread confusion about new regulations designed to make it easier for expatriates to switch jobs.

The changes, announced last week and due to take effect on Saturday, scrap the need for workers to obtain a no-objection certificate.

The changes also do not allow employers of skilled and professional workers to bar the employees from taking new jobs for six months.

Speaking on Noor Dubai and Sharjah FM, Humaid bin Deemas al Suwaidi, the under-secretary for the ministry, said there are conditions to the new rules.

"In the past few days, our call centre has received around 700 calls from employees asking if they can leave their employers at any time under the new regulations," he said. "They cannot unless the contract has ended - legally. They have to respect their contracts. They are the ones who agreed to them, or agreed on their renewal."

There was good news for employees who have left their jobs within the past few months, but have not yet completed the six-month waiting period: they will also be able to take advantage of the new regulations - provided they are skilled, or have completed at least two years of employment, Mr al Suwaidi said.

The ministry made the changes, he said, to "keep" professionals in the country.

"The government has two options, either employ more and more workers from abroad, or employ the ones who are already in the country," said Mr al Suwaidi. "Why get a new one when we have one here?"

Some of the callers were asking for clarification on skilled workers. Mr al Suwaidi explained that they fall into three categories: the top tier having completed a university degree, the second having completed college-level work short of a university degree, and the third having graduated from secondary school.

Under a new classification system the ministry introduced two weeks ago, companies can reduce their labour expenses by hiring more skilled workers - at least 20 per cent, 15 per cent of which are Emiratis - and paying them Dh12,000, Dh7,000 or Dh5,000 from the top tier down.

Mr al Suwaidi predicted all the changes would ease labour market movement as well as encourage Emiratisation in the private sector.

He said that of the four million employees registered to work in the private sector, just 16,000 - or 0.4 per cent - are Emirati. That number is more precise and much lower than previous reports, which put the figure at less than three per cent.

"The problem is that private sectors have a negative image of locals, and locals prefer working in the government sector," he said. "The ministry hopes with the new classification system, companies will be encouraged to employ more workers then pay 'symbolic' labour card fees."

Companies will have until July next year to comply with the new classification system guidelines that were set earlier this month.

The ministry will only become involved with cases of employees who wish to change jobs if their contract has been breached in some way.

"If the contract is unlimited, then you should give your one month's notice first," he said. "If the employer does not cooperate, then the ministry interferes."

Companies will be fined for violations as well as given black points that could boost their labour fees, depending on the violation committed.

The ministry plans to devote half its time to inspecting companies for violations, up from a previous 20 per cent, said Mr al Suwaidi.

The ministry also will partner with the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Economy to enforce the new legislation.

Anyone with further questions on the labour laws can call 800 6655.

 

osalem@thenational.ae

 

Schools, skills and salaries

 

Each private-sector employee falls into one of five categories. The top three are considered ‘skilled’ workers.

The top tier are those employees with university degrees. The second category of skilled worker is anyone with a diploma, or degree higher than secondary school education. The third category comprises those who have completed secondary-school education.

Under the new classification system, companies with a workforce that is at least 20 per cent skilled must pay the top tier a minimum of Dh12,000 a month, Dh7,000 for the second and Dh5,000 for the third.