Work Wisdom: What kind of legal protection do employees have against salary cuts and redundancy in the UAE?

Are you having a coronavirus career crisis? In this compelling new series, Grazia quizzes the region's experts in recruitment, business, personal branding, law, finance and more to help you navigate your next move in your professional life
Work Wisdom: What kind of legal protection do employees have against salary cuts and redundancy in the UAE?
Can Meghan Markle help you mediate your salary negotiations? Probably not, but this advice might

With salary cuts and redundancies becoming unforseen side effecst of the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crash, Grazia asks Nour Gemayel, Associate at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates about your options.

What kind of legal protection against salary cuts and redundancy is afforded to employees in the UAE? 
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (‘MOHRE’) has issued, on 26 March 2020, Ministerial Resolution no. 279 of 2020 (the ‘Resolution’) to help employers cope with the hardships arising from the COVID-19 outbreak. The Resolution enables private sector employers to take drastic measures, including but not limited to temporary (and permanent) salary reductions, and terminations for reduction in workload (i.e. redundancies). The foundation of the Resolution, however, rests upon the mutual agreement between employers and employees in the sense that an employer may not compel his employees to comply with a measure of his choice. In light of the unusual circumstances the world is facing due to the coronavirus pandemic, we recommend that both employees and employers communicate, cooperate, and compromise in an effort to successfully get through this crisis.

How would I broach this subject with my employer?
We believe that honesty is the best policy when it comes to all relationships, and specifically employment related ones. Approaching your employer with your concerns, while bearing in mind the restrictions and hardships that the business is facing, is likely to result in a productive exchange whereby both employer and employee will be able to come to an amicable agreement. Both parties must keep open minds when negotiating. During the past few months, we have noticed that some employers tend to take advantage of the COVID-19 restrictions to impose measures on their employees that are not necessary to the business’ survival; while many employees have adopted a stubborn stance of not accepting to compromise on their rights. The aim is for the parties to successfully get through this phase together.

Nour Gemayel, Associate at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates

How would a lawyer help me mediate this conversation?
A lawyer can help you understand your rights and advise you on the best approach to adopt during the negotiations with your employer, and will also be able to highlight the risks associated with the different options you have. Employers are not usually willing to negotiate with lawyers in relation to employees who are still employed by their businesses. As such, it can be challenging for an employee to have a lawyer conduct the negotiations on his/her behalf. Nonetheless, a lawyer can provide the necessary guidance that will allow the employee to handle the negotiations directly with the employer.

Have any legal cases been won successfully in the UAE?
The likelihood of success is highly dependent on the merits of each case. Nonetheless, employers that do not provide to the courts sufficient evidence to justify the decisions o rmeasures they have taken against their employees are unlikely to be successful in court.

Where should I compromise?
Wherever you are able to. Each employee’s situation is different and only you can assess the rights/entitlements that where you are willing to temporarily concede. We recommend you to keep a mindful approach about the opportunities and options you are offered without compromising over what you believe to be unfair.

What are my legal options?
An employer may not impose measures of his choice upon his employees given that their agreement is fundamental. Employees must, however, understand that rejecting all measures proposed to them enables their employer to terminate their employments. Such termination will not affect the employees’ entitlements, but it is unlikely that a court will consider any such termination as arbitrary.

For legal advice and more information about your options from BSA, call +971 4 528 5555 or visit