DIFC – Changes in Employment Law 2019 

Last week our team attended the DIFC New Employment Law conference, this session and panel discussion provided great awareness into some of the key changes and updates to the previously enacted 2012 law.

Chief Legal Officer of the DIFC Authority Jacques Visser began the talk with a brief background into the law and the process of amending and updating it. What I personally found most interesting was his insight into how the amendment of the law not only affected employers and employees legally, but also socially and emotionally. It was definitely an encouraging insight into the background of the vision in creating the new law.

The panel discussion was initiated with the key changes under Article 18 – regarding consequences for employers in terms of termination. Under the old law, employers were expected to pay all money due to the employee after termination, within 14 days. If they breached the 14 day mark then penalties were immediately upheld – one day’s wage for each day over the 14 day parameter.
Under the new law it is now the court’s discretion with regards to the penalty – the employer must still pay outstanding allowances within the 14 days. However, the change being there is no automatic penalty after this period. There is also a proposed cap when the penalty reaches to 6 months wages. Under the old law there were many cases of dispute – the new law is seen to make a more reasonable practice for the employer and therefore less dispute cases.

Next an in depth explanation was given into the updated sickness leave policy, paternity and maternity leave as well as a new discrimination regulation.
One of the key changes which may cause dismay for many employees is the changes to the sick leave pay. Under the current law, employees are entitled to 60 days full paid sick leave, the new law which comes into practice on August 28th 2019 sees a steep reduction in paid sick leave entitlement. The new law states employees are only entitled to ten days full paid sick leave, twenty days half pay sick leave and any additional days after that will be given with no sick pay at all. This seems a little drastic however Jacques called this the ‘minimum standard’, and if employers wish to negotiate with their employees something better, then they are free to do so and can incorporate it into the individual employee’s contract.
Annual leave also seen an unfavourable change as some would say – the old law states twenty days are allowed to be carried over into the next holiday period. However, the new law sees a reduction from twenty accrued days to just five.

I find the most noticeable and positive update is that relating to discrimination. The panel also agreed this is one of the biggest overall changes in the new law. Discrimination is split into four different types within the new law: Direct, Indirect, Harassment and Victimisation.

Direct discrimination involves very forward discrimination against someone relating to their age, sex, race, disability etc. This could be outright disrespectful comments or slander against someone due to the mentioned factors.
Indirect discrimination occurs within existing company policy – this could be for example a clause in the policy noting that only men can lift objects over 15kg as men have more physical strength. Although, in reality of course this is not always the case, and there are plenty of women who can lift heavier objects than men – it is based on a general assumption. If the employer can defend such indirect discrimination with evidence then it will be difficult for a discrimination case to be upheld against them.
With all four types, if a discrimination case triumphs, then compensation of up to one year’s full salary is due to the claimant.

In order to match other jurisdictions, the new law sees a paternity clause. This allows a new father to take paternity leave of five days if he has completed twelve months of service. The maternity regulation was also changed slightly, giving mothers the right to maternity leave over an adopted child of less than five years old. An overall positive change for parents.

Ultimately this was a very informative conference and a great insight into some of the key changes.


At MAK & Associates we have a team of lawyers specialised in employment law. We are able to assist in any legal matters concerning your rights as an employer or employee, as well as any disputes that you may have.


Please get in touch today on (+971) 4336 8833 to arrange a consultation with one of our expert lawyers. Alternatively, you can drop us an email at office@alkhoulilaw.com

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