NEWS – 20 October 2020
Parental leave in the UAE paid parental leave rights introduced
The UAE has become the first Arab country to grant parental leave to all employees in the onshore private sector. The changes, brought about by Decree, provide male private sector employees in the UAE with paid paternity leave of five working days. The entitlement applies for six months from the child’s birth and means the UAE joins the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the only GCC countries to provide paid paternity leave to private sector employees - the UAE’s policy being the most generously paid. The changes apply to employees employed by all onshore and free zone private companies, other than employers based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) or the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) financial free zones, which each have their own employment regulations and which each provide specific rules on a paid paternity leave entitlement of five working days. It follows that the entitlement to five paid days of paternity leave is, therefore, generally aligned for private sector employees across the UAE.
The new law expands on the raft of existing family leave entitlements which are already applicable within the UAE - private sector female employees are currently entitled to 45 calendar days paid maternity leave, while government or public sector employees are currently entitled to 90 calendar days paid maternity leave in the case of female employees and three days paternity leave for male employees. Commenting in Outlaw, Dubai-based lawyer Luke Tapp said the Decree was another example of how the UAE from a government that has made the development of workplace equality a priority over the past couple of years. As we reported last week, the government also recently introduced new private sector equal pay laws. So how have the new parental leave laws been received in the region? It's a question I put to Luke Tapp who joined me by video-link from Dubai:
Luke Tapp: “I think the paid parental leave legislation that was implemented about a month ago was received very well by the business community, by our clients, by the private sector. Prior to that there was no statutory entitlement to paternity leave. So there is maternity leave in in the UAE labour law, but there was no express entitlement to paternity leave and so parental leave has been introduced which gives five working days of leave for a parent within six months of the birth of their child. The only area of ambiguity in relation to that law is whether it is strictly paternity leave for fathers only, or whether it's open to mothers and fathers. There has been some guidance from the authorities to clarify that point, which appears to indicate that it's available for both genders and the legislation certainly didn't expressly exclude females from being entitled to it. So that that appears to be the interpretation of that legislation at the moment, although we do hope for that position to be confirmed one way or the other in the near future."
Training – preparing for tribunal: A step by step guide
Coming up next month, on 25 November, is our Open Course on "Preparing for tribunal: A step by step guide". It is a virtual classroom session, online, a half-day course comprising three 50 minute sessions from 10am to 1pm and examines each stage of an employment tribunal claim, from receipt of the application to the hearing. It is a course designed chiefly for HR practitioners who are responsible for handling employment tribunal claims. As always, you can register for a place directly from our website. The session will be run by Chris McAvoy, an experienced Employment Law Plus trainer and, importantly, an experienced advocate. I phoned Chris to find out more about what delegates can expect from the course:
Chris McAvoy: “So the purpose of the training is really to enable managers and HR professionals to be able to manage tribunal claims themselves. So we're looking at the full lifecycle of a tribunal claim, from receipt of the claim through to the hearing, and the various steps that need to be completed during that time. The course will really cover the whole preparation for a tribunal hearing and that is the main purpose of the course. Obviously, because we're experienced litigators, we can bring into the training some of the skills that we've developed ourselves, some of the tactics that we've deployed when acting for companies, some of the tactics that they can expect the claimants to deploy whilst they're running their case. We're going to look at settlements and some of the factors that employers should consider when deciding whether to settle a claim or not. For a lot of employers the cost of defending the claim, whether it's meritorious or not, is a significant factor but there are other factors as well that I think employers don't always consider so we're going to bring a discussion in relation to that into the session too. Obviously, there have been quite a lot of difficulties within the employment tribunal over the last six to nine months as a result of the pandemic so we'll be looking at the impact that that is having on the management of claims, and also the hearing of claims and the adjustments that the tribunal is made to those processes. Many people will be aware that a lot of hearings are being conducted by their online platform, which is called CVP, so we'll be looking at how that's working in practice and sharing some tips with delegates about using that platform.”
That training is a virtual session, run online, which obviously has its limitations but nonetheless there are ways and means to make sure delegates participate fully and get the most out of the session. Chris again:
Chris McAvoy: “Obviously, when we're doing face to face training sessions we have games and flip charts and lots of interaction and there's a limit as to how we can do that over something like Microsoft Teams but there are ways in which we can make the session fun so certainly it's not me talking to the delegates for three hours. There will be case studies probably every 10 to 15 minutes and the purpose of those case studies will be to generate discussion and, ideally, people will speak into their microphone and we can have a good discussion about the various topics but, from my experience so far, people tend to like to type their answers into the chat box and use that to generate discussion, but I will be trying to encourage people to discuss the case studies as much as possible during the course of the session. Obviously there are quite a few functions within Microsoft Teams that can be used, such as the hands up, so we can use that when doing quizzes, and we'll try and make it as interactive as possible bearing in mind the fact that it is obviously over a platform rather than in person.”
HR1 forms – new format and filing anomaly
As you will be aware, businesses making redundancies needs to give advance notification to the government, formally. So, an employer proposing to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees is obliged to notify the Secretary of State for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, BEIS. Notification must be made by sending a completed form HR1 to the Insolvency Service Redundancy Payments Service, which acts on behalf of BEIS. Incidentally, an updated version of the HR1 form, for use by employers, was published by the Insolvency Service on 3 August 2020.The old form was four pages long, the new version is only three pages. Pages three and four of the old version were the ones in tabular format that had to be filled out by the employer. These pages are now pages one and two of the new version; there have been minor cosmetic changes to this part, but they are not really of any substance. So that's the form itself. What about the filing of it? We've noticed an anomaly on that front, as Jon Coley told me:
Jon Coley: ”One interesting development we have seen over recent weeks, Joe, which is not something as a group of partners we've seen over the last 20 years, and we've all been commenting on it, and that is filing HR1s. Normally when an employer is required to file an HR1 if they are contemplating it collective redundancy because they are making 20 more redundancies in a 90 day period, we've always just assumed that they get filed at BEIS and they get stuck in the bottom drawer and nobody actually looks or reviews or checks them. It's almost been just a procedural tick box. Recently though we've had HR1s filed on behalf of two or three clients which have clearly been reviewed, and actually BEIS have rejected them and said that they haven't been filed for various reasons. The cynic in me says perhaps the government is just trying to push the numbers of proposed redundancies out and into another period, but it's just it's just a warning to employers that if there is anything unusual in the HR1, if there is anything which departs from the norm, if there is anything which perhaps isn't just filling in the boxes, then it's worth thinking about sending them in with a covering letter to explain why you've done what you've done and even to follow it up with a phone call, just to make sure that you don't end up in a position where BEIS just turn around and say, actually, we're not accepting that HR1."
On that last point, the filing of the HR1 is largely an administrative exercise but it is a statutory requirement with, potentially, a criminal sanction for failing to file it, although that is very rare indeed. But, as Jon says, if there is anything unusual in the HR1 then best to flag that with BEIS so they don’t reject it and you know for sure that it has been filed.
For now from me that’s the news. Good bye.
- Link to HR1 form