Tim Elliot: Welcome to Lawgical, the U.A.E.’s first and only legal podcast. My name’s Tim Elliot. Lawgical comes to you from the Dubai-based legal firm, HPL Yamalova & Plewka. Here is the Managing Partner, Ludmila Yamalova. It’s nice to see you.
Ludmila Yamalova: Tim, great to be here with you again.
Tim Elliot: I want to talk to you today, Ludmila, about retirement age. As more and more people are looking to retire into the U.A.E., we have discussed retirement visas and how attractive the country is as a retirement place. Am I right in saying, first of all, that there is no set retirement age for expats, or at least no legislative set retirement age for expats?
Ludmila Yamalova: It depends on how you define retirement and for what purposes. In other words, there are several definitions and categories and requirements for the concept of retirement, depending on the context. For example, as you mentioned, the retirement visa has one age, and that is the age of 55 or even less if you worked in an industry at least 15 years, and then you would qualify in that case for a retirement visa. In that case, the definition of retirement is either 55 years of age and up, or it could be even 35 if you worked in an industry for 15 years. There is that.
Then there is retirement for the purposes of employment. If you work, how long can you work and at what point is your official retirement, perhaps more specifically, at which stage you would no longer be allowed to work, if at all, because you are now over the moon, over the edge, and over the hedge? There is that definition of retirement age.
While we are on that topic, in terms of employment and retirement, there is a little bit of a difference between expats and Emiratis. For example, expats right now, under the new U.A.E. labor law introduced in 2022, there is no mention of a retirement age. This is quite a big departure from what existed before. Under the previous labor law, there was in fact a retirement age stated as 60.
Tim Elliot: Right.
Ludmila Yamalova: Basically, the previous labor law talked about employment and benefits and entitlements until the age of 60. Therefore, by the implication, the retirement age was 60. In fact, I am sure since both of us have been in the U.A.E. for a very long time, we could recall many stories and cases where people were ultimately let go or told that they had to leave the company, and ultimately the country, because they were now at the age of retirement, which was 60.
Tim Elliot: Yeah. I have met people where that has happened.
Ludmila Yamalova: Exactly. Even though under the previous labor law there was an age of retirement set at 60, but even then, as time went on, there were some accommodations being made by companies, depending on the employees’ qualifications. You could, for example, still get exceptions or certain modifications to still qualify for a residence visa to work even though you were above the age of 60. With time, more and more accommodations like that were being made. That was before 2022.
Now there is no specific retirement age and there is no mention of retirement age in the new labor law at all. Therefore, there is no retirement age in that context.
But then also, and I am sure you would still hear it today, we still hear it today, certain industries may set their own retirement age. It is not mandated by law. It is mandated more by industry or practice. For example, we hear that doctors in hospitals are told once they reach the age of 60 they need to retire. I can imagine there are some other industries as well where the retirement age could be set based on the specific industry, but these are more industry specific and company specific, and not mandated by law.
Then there is a retirement age in the context of a pension. This is for Emiratis. What we had just talked about applied to non-Emiratis, but pensions are for Emiratis. It depends on the type of pension. Some Emiratis, under certain circumstances, they can start to qualify for a pension at the age of 45. Depending on the benefits and depending on the industries, for pension purposes, the retirement age can be 45, could be 55, could be 60, and so it goes.
There are different definitions of retirement age. Importantly, if you want to set up your own business or you want to be an investor in the U.A.E., a business investor, a company investor, there has never been a retirement limit. Even in the past, when you could no longer work for a company because you were now over the age of 60, you could then set up your own company. In that case, you would still qualify to have residency in the U.A.E. despite your age. Previously, if you were working for someone, for a company, it was not so much that the company did not want to keep you beyond 60, it was just that when the company would apply to renew your visa or to apply for a visa, it would be denied because you were too old under the previous law. But, even back then, and it certainly is still the case now, if you were to apply for residency on the basis of your investment in a company or as the shareholder of a company, then the age requirement did not apply.
Tim Elliot: Okay. I guess some companies are going to have their own retirement policies as well, so we need to take that into account, but that is case by case. The simple fact is if you can afford to retire here, and you own or have a place to reside, with family for example, you are free to do so essentially what you like.
Ludmila Yamalova: You’re exactly right. It is very flexible, as we had talked about in the previous podcast, if you are one of those new age kids who are lucky enough to get into the social media influencing world, and you have been doing this for the last 15 years, you could be 35 now and you could actually and legally speaking under the U.A.E. qualify for a retirement visa because you have been in the industry for 15 years and obviously financially you will have done well enough to be able to afford to retire, so you can set your own retirement age. If you want to work for a company, there is now, presumably at least, nothing in the law that prevents you from even working for a third party, for some other company, when you are 70. You can still do that if your health allows you or if you want to set up your own business or company, you could be even 80. There is no limit.
From a corporate standpoint, it is interesting because there is no specific retirement age, it does not really prevent the company from saying, we have our own internal retirement age of 60 or 55. There is nothing in the law that prevents from doing so, but I can also see how claims of discrimination could start appearing more as time goes on. You can see how certain companies may just not want to keep somebody just purely because of their age. The law does not necessarily set 60 as the retirement age anymore, there are no more legal requirements for the company to terminate you because of that. You can see how some people might want to claim that they are being discriminated against because they are being terminated prematurely on account of a retirement age which is not mandated by law.
Tim Elliot: I was going to ask that. It seems to me as though Dubai is very vibrant, very much a younger person’s place to live in lots of ways. But, conversely, the U.A.E. does not discriminate by age for employment purposes, so that is not in the law, but I can see what you’re saying. If you live in a vibrant young place, maybe you just want vibrant young people in your social media empire. I don’t know. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, isn’t it?
Ludmila Yamalova: It is. It would be interesting also to see how the law evolves in that regard because the new labor law, which is what we are talking about now that no longer sets a retirement age, also has very robust provisions regarding anti-discrimination. There are very specific and explicit provisions banning any forms of discrimination on the grounds of gender, on the grounds of nationality, origins, and so forth. Presumably, there could also be an argument that if a company decides not to employ someone beyond a certain age, there could be a reason for discrimination. What you can do about it, in practical terms, is a different question. In other words, what claim would you actually have? What effective, practical claim would you have against the company remains to be seen. It certainly presents an interesting space to watch because that was not an argument in the past that would have possible to entertain, but now looking ahead, you could see how employees could say, listen, I have been a stellar performer and you are just letting me go now because you don’t like my age, not because of my performance, and now you have no legal basis to do so, and therefore you are discriminating. We will see how the authorities react to these kinds of claims, and now we have a new argument and therefore a new space to watch and see how society will want to deal with these kinds of grievances.
To your point about this being a young society, yes, and this is why for the longest time there was such a thing as a retirement age. That was because the U.A.E. was not necessarily set up to house and host in the long run people that were of age for a number of reasons, but now so many things have changed over the last 15 years in terms of, for example, medical structure, a medical system which is a lot more accessible, and there is a lot more to offer to people, to retirees, who might need more medical care. Also , now the immigration law has changed in so many ways, allowing specifically for people – and not just allowing – attracting specifically retirees to come into the country, and in that case, setting the age of retirement quite low, at 55, and even less if you have been in the industry for 15 years.
I think we are moving away from that. I think we are no longer just being focused, the country that is, on just having the young and vibrant and the dynamic. I think the country in general is maturing, the business environment is maturing, the industries here are maturing, society is maturing and not just in age, but also in its mindset. There is a certain value placed on people of age to come here and continue to contribute either by investing in a company or with their minds and talents into the labor market.
Tim Elliot: That’s another episode of Lawgical, the retirement age here in the U.A.E. Ludmila Yamalova is the Managing Partner here at Yamalova & Plewka, our legal expert. As ever, thank you.
Ludmila Yamalova: Thank you very much, Tim.
Tim Elliot: Find us at LYLAW on social media, on Instagram, on TikTok, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and there is a huge, ever-growing library, hundreds of podcasts, all kinds of legal matters answered, all free to listen to at LYLawyers.com, or wherever you find your podcasts. If you would like a legal question answered in a future Lawgical episode, or you would like to talk to a U.A.E. qualified experienced legal professional, click Contact at LYLawyers.com.