Working Hours and Leave for Private Sector Employees in the UAE


The United Arab Emirates (“UAE”/ “Country”) is not only a land of tourist attraction or a hub for high profile people to do business but it is one of the biggest lands of employment. People who work as labours in UAE are 99% expat’s i.e people who migrate from their home country to this country to work as labours. The Country respects the migrants and have framed a very simple and easily accessible Labour Law.

The statutory provisions relating to employment in the UAE are set out in the Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 Regulating Labour Relations as amended by Federal Laws No. 24 of 1981, No. 15 of 1985 and No. 12 of 1986 (the “Law”) and the various ministerial resolutions framed thereunder. The Law applies to all employees and workers in the UAE including UAE nationals and expatriates. The main governing body responsible for regulating the Labour affairs is the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratization (previously the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs) (“the Ministry”). The Law covers every aspect of the employee-employer relationship including employment contract, wages, working hours, leaves, employees’ other benefits, restrictions on the employment of women and juvenile, security and protection of employees, employment related accidents, injuries and death, termination and penalties, disciplinary procedures and dispute settlement. In this article we will focus on a small important topic that is the Working Hours of the employees.

Who is an Employee?

Before getting in to the topic, let us first understand who is covered under this Law. The definition of “employee” in the Law states “Any male or female person who receives remuneration of any kind for work performed thereby in the services of an employer and under his management or control, even if the employee is off employer’s sight. This meaning shall also apply to officials and employees who are in the service of the employer and are subject to the provisions hereof.” Employees or workers are people who work under a person called Employer and receive a remuneration for the work done by him/her. All employees and workers under this law include both UAE nationals and expatriates. The partners in any business are not considered as ‘employees’; instead, they are treated as ‘investors’ in their businesses. However, if the partner holds an employee position, additional to his status as partner, he will be considered as an ‘employee’ working in the company and comes under the purview of this Law.

Working Hours

This is the most important topic which any employee will look forward to. Articles 65 to 90 of the Law deal with working hours of the employees/workers.

Maximum Hours

  • Maximum number of working hours shall be eight (8) hours plus one (1) hour break subject to maximum of forty-eight (48) hours a week. Working hours for the employees of commercial establishments, hotels, restaurants, watchmen and similar operations may be increased to nine (9) hours per day as determined by the Ministry. Likewise, working hours per day in respect of hazardous work or work detrimental to health, may be decreased by decision of the Ministry, .
  • The maximum number of working hours will be reduced by two hours during the month of Ramadan.
  • The time consumed for an employee to travel from him residence to his work place will not be included in his working hours.
  • The employer must display a notice board at a common place containing information about the weekly closing day, working hours, rest time and public holidays for all category of employees and a copy of the same have to be submitted with the concern Labour department.
  • Government workers/employees are not governed by Labour law, they work for 7 hours a day, any work beyond 7 hours a day is prohibited.

Over Time

  • Any work done beyond the maximum number of working hours shall be considered as overtime. Only two hours over time per day is permitted for a worker/ employee as per the Law.
  • In case of an emergency or to prevent any substantial losses, the employer can ask the workers/ employees to work beyond the permitted over time hours.
  • The worker/ employee who works beyond the working hours is entitled to a remuneration as that of the normal hours for the extra hours worked plus a supplement of at least 25% of the remuneration for the excess hours worked. The supplement of 25% is only when the over time is not beyond 9 PM.
  • If the worker/ employee works over time during the odd hours i.e., between 9 PM to 4AM, in that case he/she is entitled to a remuneration as that of the normal hours for the extra hours worked plus a supplement of at least 50% of the remuneration for the excess hours worked.

Work during Holidays:

  • In UAE Friday is generally considered as weekly rest and no employee is asked to work except for the daily wage employees.
  • If a worker/ employee is made to work on weekly rest days or on a public holiday he/she is entitled to receive his/her basic remuneration for the normal hours wages plus a supplement of at least 50% of the remuneration and a compensatory day off.
  • If a worker/ employee who is made to work on weekly rest days or on a public holiday is not compensated with a day off then the employer is entitled to give a supplement of at least 150% of his/her basic wage for the days of such work.
  • a worker/ employee can not be made to work for more than two successive Fridays, but this does not apply to daily wages worker/ employee.

Working hours and overtime etc., does not apply to the following 

The working hours constrains, over time and work during Public Holidays do not apply to certain category of people categorized and determined by the Ministry. So far, persons in senior most posts in the management or any person appointed to act on behalf of the employer, who holds a power or authority over the employees and sea men and ship crews who work on special conditions due to their nature of work are not entitled to the above privileges.

Holidays/ Leaves:

  • All the workers/ employees are entitled to an official paid leave for the occasions stated by the Ministry.
  • Every worker/ employee is entitled to a paid annual leave of two days a month in case of employment less than a year but more than six months and 30 days a year in case of employment more than a year.
  • During holiday period if the employee falls sick, it will not be considered as sick leave but as a holiday leave.
  • If the employee has not utilized the annual leave or due to any necessity he/she has worked during the annual leave and the period of leave during which he has worked has not been carried forward to the next year, then the employer ought to pay him/her his/her wage in addition to leave allowance for the said days of work equal to his/her basic pay.. In all cases, the employee may not be required to work during the annual leave more than once within two consecutive years.
  • The remuneration due and leave pay as set out in the Law shall be paid to the employee by the employer before he/she goes on an annual leave
  • When the worker/ employee is on leave the employer can not issue a dismissal order or terminate the contract
  • A worker/ employee during his/her whole service shall be granted a special leave of 30 days once for pilgrimage.
  • The employee is entitled to receive cash in lieu of annual leave days not availed by him/her, if he/she was dismissed or if he/she left the service, after the period of notice stipulated by law. Cash in lieu of leave is calculated on the bases of pay received by the employee at the time of maturity of such leave.

Sick Leave

  • If worker/ employee falls sick he should inform the employer with two days, this does not include injuries occurred at work.
  • During probation the employee is not entitled to paid sick leave.
  • worker/ employee upon completion of probation and continues service with the employer for more than 3 months thereafter is eligible for 90 days of sick leave, in which the first 15 days is with full pay next 30 days is a half-paid leave and remaining days is not a paid leave. The sick leave can be continuous or intermediate.
  • If a worker/ employee, under the influence of alcohol or drugs fall sick, then he is not entitled for a paid sick leave.
  • If the worker/ employee does not resume work after the sick leave he can be terminated by the employer without any further notice. A worker so terminated is entitled to receive gratuity as per the Labor Law provisions. The worker/ employee can be terminated by the employer if he finds him/her working for another employer during his sick leave or annual leave.
  • If the worker/ employee resigns his job before completion of 45 days of his paid sick leave due to his illness, he shall be entitled to the remuneration for the remaining days of the 45 days paid leave only after an authorized Government Medical Officer certifies that it is necessary for him to resign and take rest.


It is discernible from the above that the UAE Labour Laws are made simple as they have to be understood and utilized properly by all the employees, both UAE nationals and the expatriates. Given the huge workforce in the UAE, Law and regulations relating to employment have been drafted carefully covering all the relevant aspects and the same gets amended when the situation demands with the efflux of time.