You are here
GCC Employment Laws: Understanding Key Changes and the COVID-19 Impact
This article was written by Hayley Wilkins, Senior Manager – Customer Engagement and HR, Michael Page Middle East
With employment law such a hot topic currently, we are pleased to officially launch this employment law publication in partnership with DWF Middle East LLP and LexisNexis. You can treat this publication as your personal employment law handbook that covers all of the GCC jurisdictions and is published in English & Arabic. You can save the link to refer to when needed and we will continually update it as new resolutions and articles are released. Download the publication.
Key changes in GCC Employment laws
The most significant change to employment laws in the last few years across the GCC has been a drive towards localisation and encouraging more GCC nationals into employment. In KSA, it became law for certain roles to be filled by nationals (HR, retail staff etc) and all GCC countries have enforced a % of nationals that need to be employed in one way or another which is now starting to include the private sector.
We have seen some major developments in discrimination law across the region. The DIFC in the UAE has seen enhancements such as claims of up to 12 months salary available for discrimination cases and time periods to make claims. Bahrain has improved discrimination law to cover all facets beyond wages and terminations and KSA has developed discrimination law to cover sexual harassment.
The DIFC in the UAE is leading the way with implementation of enhanced family friendly benefits including the introduction of paternity and adoption leave. It is anticpiated that other jurisdictions will follow suit to enhance family friendly benefits in the near future.
Impact of COVID19 on GCC Employment laws
All GCC countries saw legal implementation of a work from home policy to ensure the safety and wellbeing of citizens. Safety measures such as temperatures checks, wearing of masks and social distancing has also been implemented with guidance changing as the situation evolves. Bahrain is the only country not to enforce a lockdown and/or curfew on its citizens.
As employers across the region try to minimize the economic impact of the crisis, certain directives have been implemented to protect the employer and the employee. These include mutual consent between employee and employer of forced unpaid leave, temporary reduction in salaries and reduction in working hours (although please note, KSA law and the DIFC do not require the employee’s consent to temporarily reduce salaries during the emergency measures period) Employers can put employees on paid annual leave without consent of the employee in most jurisdictions. Some permanent measures are still protected by law so please consult your local employment law specialists for further guidance.
Expat visas across the region have seen some relaxation as residents find themselves stranded outside of the country and visitors unable to return to their home countries. In the UAE, expired visas have been automatically extended until the end of 2020 and all other GCC countries have seen expiry extensions ranging from 3-6 months. Furthermore, most countries within the GCC have waived fines and penalties in relation to visas.
All countries have moved visa applications and renewals to an online platform so employees moving between employers should not be affected. Michael Page have assisted employers to onboard new employees remotely during this time and have not seen a huge impact on existing residents.
For more detailed updates to recent changes in the employment laws within the GCC and the impact of COVID19, please take a look at our online recordings of webinars which we have conducted in the last couple of months. The information provided is up to date at the time of the recording and may be subject to change as the situition evolves.