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New law to provide equal opportunities for disabled employees in UAE

Out-Law Analysis | 15 Aug 2018 | 3:58 pm | 1 min. read

ANALYSIS: A new law which seeks to protect and provide equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the workplace is the latest move by authorities in the UAE to develop and modernise local employment law.

The Ministerial Decree No. 43 of 2018 ('the Decree') was published on 13 August 2018. It goes a step further than existing UAE government initiatives such as the National Strategy for Empowering People with Disabilities and Dubai's Disability Strategy 2020 by giving disabled employees a legal right to be treated in the same way when compared to other employees.

The Decree demonstrates the government's commitment to ensuring that disabled people, referred to under the National Strategy as 'people of determination', are fully integrated into society.

Employers should review their recruitment and exit practices to ensure that the working environment and conditions do not present a barrier to disabled employees. Additionally, the new law gives employers a good opportunity to create or amend an existing diversity and inclusion policy, to show the company's commitment to encouraging its disabled workforce.

The Decree stresses the importance of suitable working conditions, requiring employers to grant exemptions and privileges to their disabled employees wherever necessary. It is understood that the Ministry of Community Development will be working in conjunction with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and other federal bodies to determine what reasonable measures employers should be taking to ensure that the working environment is fit and proper for its disabled employees.

The DIFC Employment Law already places a positive obligation on employers in the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees in the workplace, and it will be interesting to see what will be expected of onshore employers.

The Decree addresses equal footing in recruitment, emphasising the need for transparency hiring practices free from any prejudicial or biased decisions. Specifically, disabled persons should only be assessed on their capacity to perform the role and not the mechanics of how it is executed. The UAE Federal Disability Act 2006 already legislates that disability should not of itself preclude individuals from being selected for work. However, the existing provisions apply to UAE nationals only while the Decree, and its protections, apply equally to UAE nationals and expatriates.

The Decree seeks to ensure that disabled employees are given ample opportunity for promotion and that they should, for example, be given the support necessary to attend external conferences and workshops. Furthermore, in an important step for disabled employees, the law clearly states that employees should be able to take leave of absence for any treatment required.

The new law states that employment cannot be terminated for reasons of the employee's disability. However, it falls short of giving employees the right to bring a discrimination claim or be awarded any compensation.

Luke Tapp and Ruth Stephen are Dubai-based employment law experts at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.