Tim Elliot: Welcome to another edition of Lawgical, the U.A.E.’s first legal podcast. It comes to you from the Dubai-based legal firm, HPL Yamalova & Plewka. You can find us in JLT, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, here in Dubai. My name’s Tim Elliot. As ever, I am very pleased to welcome the Managing Partner, Ludmila Yamalova. Good to see you again.
Ludmila Yamalova: Good to see you too, Tim.
Tim Elliot: In this edition of Lawgical, we’re going to break down maternity leave here in the U.A.E. I want to start here, Ludmila, and really drill into this. Under U.A.E. law, what is statutory when it comes to maternity leave? Let’s start there.
Ludmila Yamalova: Sure. In the U.A.E. law, maternity leave is covered by what’s called the U.A.E. Labor Law. As per the U.A.E. Labor Law, maternity leave is 45 days, and that is for every baby. Now, the 45-day allowance applies to any women that have worked for the same company for at least a year. If a woman has worked for the same company for at least a year, then she is entitled to 45 days of maternity leave at full pay. However, if she has worked for the same company for less than one year, the compensation for 45 days of maternity is at half pay. That, by the way, the 45 days includes the period either before delivery and/or after delivery, so that ultimately is the overarching structure and benefit, if you will, that is afforded to the women in the U.A.E. under the Labor Law. That is 45 days statutory.
Tim Elliot: There have been some moves to expand the law in recent years. We’ve some government and some private companies as well that offer different maternity benefits, Ludmila.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes. That is why you rightfully asked, what is the statutory requirement? The statutory requirement is 45 days, and that is, whether the company offers it or not, the women entitled to that. But companies are always free to offer greater benefits. They cannot take away from that benefit, but they certainly can offer greater benefits, and that is, they can offer 90 days or anything else, or whatever other structure. A lot of companies these days do offer additional benefits, either by way of perhaps introducing some flexibility and maybe longer breaks or shorter hours. In the DIFC in particular, there are some additional benefits that are being introduced there for maternity. As far as the U.A.E. Labor Law is concerned, recently there was an amendment to the law now expressly introducing the paternity leave for fathers, obviously. Previously, there was no allowance for fathers to take time off on account of an upcoming delivery or a new baby. Now the law provides for a mandatory five days of paternity leave, and these five days can be taken, again, either before delivery or after delivery, but within the first six months from the time that the baby was born. That is now a benefit that is also afforded to fathers in addition to all the other, obviously, vacation and sick leave and such that are offered under the Labor Law. That is the more recent amendment, which is a positive one, if you think about it. Because while maybe some compare the U.A.E. laws on maternity to perhaps some countries in Europe, and maybe it sounds less generous if you compare it to those laws, but if you compare it to the ones in the U.S., they are actually a lot more generous than the ones in the U.S. It is all relative.
But there are a few other provisions under the Labor Law that offer additional benefits in addition to the 45 days of maternity leave at full pay. There is also 18 months after delivery where the woman is entitled to two additional breaks per day after she has gone back to work. So, during the work hours she is entitled to two breaks, 30 minutes each, for basically nursing her child, and that should not affect her compensation. Ultimately, what we are talking about is reduced working hours by at least an hour a day for 18 months. So, after she is back to work, for a year and a half she ultimately has one hour less per day to work without affecting her compensation. This is also a benefit that is important to highlight. Also, if there are medical conditions, for example, preventing the mother from coming back to work, she can also be away from work for additional 100 days at the end of the maternity leave without ultimately being terminated. These are some of the other benefits.
Now, in talking about additional benefits that companies might offer, not many companies offer paid extended maternity leave, often what they do offer is just additional unpaid leave, let’s say 45 days of paid maternity leave and then additional 45 days of unpaid, amounting to about three months, for example. These benefits are more frequent and you see them more commonly in the U.A.E., but also there are a number of companies, in particular those that have some sort of European connections or roots, if you will, that offer greater maternity benefits to the employees in the U.A.E. to mirror the benefits that they offer to the women in Europe, for example.
Tim Elliot: It’s important to highlight that, isn’t it?, that some companies may offer enhanced benefits, depending on what’s offered in different jurisdictions, but I just wanted to finish this podcast by recapping briefly what’s enshrined in the U.A.E. Labor Law when it comes to maternity leave here in the U.A.E., if you could just run through the bullet points.
Ludmila Yamalova: Sure. It’s basically 45 days of maternity leave at full pay and additionally 18 months after the woman has gone back to work of a one-hour break per day without affecting or reducing the woman’s compensation. Those are ultimately the two benefits, plus there is paternity leave now of five days for every child. That is a summary of the benefits.
I do want to make one more comment about perhaps the rationale or the reasoning behind what some may consider to be not a very generous policy, and that is because, when we are talking about, for example, countries in Europe and those countries and companies who have much longer compensation maternity breaks, most of the time in those cases it is not the company that pays for the woman’s maternity leave. There is either some sort of a mix between the company and the government, but a lot of that is actually subsidized by the government. Whereas here, this is purely paid by the company. So, in a way from a business standpoint, it is not unreasonable to expect that the business may not be interested in paying for somebody’s maternity leave for more than a month and a half if it comes at their dime. Ultimately, you are paying as a business and you are paying for them not to work, and it is coming straight from your pocket. In most other countries where those benefits exist for longer periods of time, that compensation does not come from your own pocket as a company or as a business, but rather some sort of a mix with government subsidies.
Tim Elliot: The 45 days, is that 45 consecutive days, including weekends, or is that 45 working days, and in addition, I guess it would be 12 weekend days?
Ludmila Yamalova: No. it is consecutive days. Yes, 45 consecutive days.
Tim Elliot: That’s Lawgical, this time maternity leave enshrined in the U.A.E. Labor Law here in the Emirates. As always, our legal expert here on Lawgical, that’s Ludmila Yamalova, the Managing Partner here at Yamalova & Plewka. Thank you, Ludmila, for your time, for your legal expertise, as always.
Ludmila Yamalova: Tim, thank you very much for your always very engaging conversation.
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