Having a baby anywhere is an incredible thing, but the emotions of motherhood alone won’t help you navigate the UAE’s maternity laws. Check out our comprehensive list of rules and regulations before you welcome your family’s newest addition.
Maternity pay has long been a touchy topic in the UAE. In recent years the compulsory number of days paid leave a new mother is allowed is 45 days – though if she has been working at a company for under a year, it may be granted only with half-pay.
“Employees fare better under the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Employment Law, where they are entitled to a minimum of 65 days maternity leave with full pay for the first 33 days and half-pay for the further 32 days,” says Nita Maru, of TWS Legal Consultants.
“However, to be entitled to such pay, an employee must satisfy additional criteria such as having been employed for at least 12 months preceding the eighth week before the expected week of childbirth and the provision a medical practitioner’s certificate stating the expected or actual birth date, if requested by their employer,” she adds.
There is no entitlement to paternity leave anywhere in the UAE aside from the ADGM, which allows for just one week – though many employers will grant some leave as a matter of policy.
Dubai agency MediaCom recently made headlines by offering female employees six months’ maternity leave though it is, by some distance, an exception.
The Emirates still offer mothers far less time off work than in other developed nations. Its neighbours in Saudi Arabia (10 weeks), Oman (seven weeks) and Qatar (seven weeks) all grant more, while Sweden has the world’s longest period of paid maternity leave, at 56 weeks paid at 80 per cent salary, with a further 13 weeks at a fixed rate.
Upon the completion of the 45 days, the employee is required to return to work. “An employee may be granted leave without pay for up to 100 days if the absence from work is due to illness resulting from pregnancy or delivery and is evidenced by a medical certificate,” says Maru.
When she returns to work, the new mother has a right to two additional breaks of 30 minutes each, without a reduction of remuneration to breast feed, up to 18 months from the date of return.
Should a woman fall ill due to her pregnancy or childbirth, she is entitled to 100 days additional unpaid sick leave. Note that in the DIFC this entitlement is 33 working days will full pay, and another 32 days at half-pay.
“Many employees are, however, concerned by the prospect that their employer may wish to avoid the issue of maternity leave altogether,” adds Maru. “There is a common acceptance among many people that female employees within the UAE have little protection against being dismissed by their employer due to their pregnancy and/or maternity leave rights.”
Sarah Khoja, of Clyde & Co, adds that, “under federal labour law there is no strict right of return to work or to the same role. However, an employee cannot be terminated whilst on maternity leave and if she was terminated on return due to being replaced then she could claim arbitrary dismissal.”
An employee’s contract may only be terminated without notice in a limited number of specific circumstances. Though Maru is not convinced: “It may, though, be simple for an employer to cite any reason other than pregnancy, such as financial constraints or poor performance, when dismissing a pregnant woman.”
Words: Sean Williams