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UAE amends labour litigation rules for disputes of AED 50,000 or less

On February 27, 2024

The UAE’s amended labour litigation regulations came into force last month. From 1 January 2024 onwards, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) is now empowered to issue final executive decisions concerning individual labour disputes valued at AED 50,000 (US$ 13,613) or less. 

The decision will apply to companies and workers in the private sector, domestic workers and their employers, and domestic worker recruitment agencies. Furthermore, the directive extends to disputes regarding non-compliance with previously settled amicable resolutions by the MoHRE, irrespective of the amount claimed. 

According to the new regulations, both workers and employers can file a labour complaint with the MoHRE, which will then review the case and attempt to resolve it amicably. If the claim’s value is not more than AED 50,000 (US$ 13,613), or if either party fails to comply with an amicable settlement, the MoHRE will render a final executive judgment on the issue.

While the new regulation does not specify a timeframe within which the MoHRE must reach an executive decision, it does stipulate that if either party finds the decision unsatisfactory, they have the right to file a case before the Court of Appeals within 15 working days of notification of MoHRE’s decision. Upon filing, the Court will schedule a hearing within three working days, with the case being adjudicated within 15 working days after that. The decision of the Court will be considered final, and filing an appeal will suspend the implementation of the MoHRE decision.

For claims exceeding AED 50,000, the process remains unchanged: upon receiving a labour complaint, the MoHRE will first attempt to mediate and resolve labour disputes amicably. If mediation efforts fail, the case will be referred to the Labour Court’s Court of First Instance. The Court is then required to convene a hearing within three business days, notify the involved parties, and proceed with adjudication.

The court will dismiss labour disputes failing to adhere to the above procedures, and any claims related to rights under the Labour Law will not be considered if brought after one year from the date of violation.

The MoHRE stated that disputes can be filed online or through its smart app, but did not specify if translation services will be available for those wishing to submit a labour case. Currently, the online service is only available in English and Arabic. Workers can also lodge complaints or request assistance by contacting its ‘Labour Claims and Advisory Call Centre’ at the toll-free number, 80084. The latter centre, as per the UAE’s Worker’s Protection Program website, “employs more than 300 specialists who can communicate fluently in 15 languages.”

The MoHRE’s new procedure could be positive if it expedites the resolution of labour disputes, as the previous process was prolonged and disadvantaged many low-income workers with limited time and resources. However, additional details are required to assess its strengths and weaknesses: for example, it is unclear who the MoHRE will appoint to resolve labour cases and whether they constitute a competent legal team. It also remains uncertain whether legal representation will be allowed before the MoHRE, as well as how the new process will apply to companies licensed within the UAE’s free zones. Lastly, adherence to the timelines outlined in the directive should be monitored closely, as previous cases indicate that decisions often take much longer than proscribed.