Guide to hiring employees in United Arab Emirates

Everything you need to know when expanding your UAE workforce

Airswift hiring guide UAE
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Overview

Best known for its highly-developed infrastructure and celebrated diversity, the United Arab Emirates (or UAE) is an economic powerhouse of the Middle East and is widely known as a business-friendly country in the region that welcomes foreign workers and investments.

The UAE’s economy is the 5th largest in the Middle East, with a gross domestic product of US$501 billion (AED 1.84 trillion) in 2022.

The economy in the UAE relies on revenue from the natural gas and petroleum industries. One of its bigger non-oil revenue sources is tourism, and the UAE’s thriving services sector is contributing to the diversification of the economy. Across the nation, there is currently $350 billion worth of active construction projects in process.

Capital Abu Dhabi 
Languages spoken Arabic
Population size 9.89 million
Currency United Arab Emirates dirham
VAT 5% 

Payroll and taxes in the United Arab Emirates

Employer contributions

The UAE does not have any enforced federal income tax legislation for general business. Each Emirate has enacted an income tax decree, but in practice, the enforcement of the decrees is restricted to oil companies and foreign banks.

Employee contributions

There is no personal income tax law enacted in the UAE. This means that there are no individual tax registration or reporting requirements.

Employers are required to contribute to staff pensions, but we will cover this later on in the guide.

Social security contributions

Social security contributions are only applicable to UAE nationals. Both the employer and employee will need to make these contributions. The rates are as follows:

  • Employer - 12.5% of the employee’s monthly salary
  • Employee - 5%
  • Government - 2.5%

These rates differ in Abu Dhabi, where contribution rates are as follows:

  • Employer - 15%
  • Employee - 5%
  • Government - 6%
Employee contributions are deducted from the employee’s salary on a monthly basis. Payment is due before the 15th of the following month and processed through the UAE Funds Transfer System. There is a late payment fee of 10%.

Minimum retirement age in the United Arab Emirates

Employees are entitled to a pension from the age of 50.

Minimum wage in the United Arab Emirates

There is currently no minimum wage in the UAE, as there is no basic salary percentage under UAE Labour Law. However, common practice dictates that the basic salary is around 60% of the gross salary, with allowances at 40%.

Working hours in the United Arab Emirates

In the UAE, the working week is typically Sunday to Thursday with some businesses  open six days a week, closing on Fridays.

However, according to the UAE's new labor law which took effect in February 2, 2022, it is no longer mandatory for employers  to implement rest days on Fridays. Rest days can now be implemented on any day of the week based on an agreement between the involved parties. 

Additional changes also include a Monday to Friday work week ( with a half day on Fridays) for all government employees. While this is not implemented in the private sector, it is reported that many private sectors companies are making plans to instill a Monday to Friday work schedule.

Usual business hours are from 8am to 1pm, resuming at 4pm (once temperatures have reduced) and continuing until 7pm.

Employee benefits in United Arab Emirates

Mandatory benefits

In the UAE, it is compulsory to register employees with the national government pension programme and contribute to it regularly. All employees working in the UAE that come from countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman) are entitled to pension programmes of their home countries.

The total mandatory pension contribution required by employers is 20% of the employee’s overall salary. These contributions are subject to a statutory minimum and maximum salary amount (AED 1,000 and AED 50,000, respectively), against which the pension contribution is calculated.

Supplementary benefits

When it comes to providing benefits for employees in the UAE, it’s useful to have a strong understanding of the economy and local expectations so that you can provide genuine value for your employees. Your benefits plan must address your workers’ needs as well as give you a competitive advantage in the careers market.

You can offer a variety of supplementary benefits to set your company apart, including:

  • Performance awards
  • Access to mental health support and counselling
  • Training and development courses
  • Financial advisory services
  • Wellness and health events
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Types of leave available in the United Arab Emirates

Annual leave

Employees are entitled to the following:
  • Two days' leave for every month if their service is more than six months and less than one year of continuous employment
  • A minimum of 30 vacation days a year if their service exceeds one year of continuous employment

Annual leave is usually calculated on the basis of a calendar month rather than by working days.

According to the New 2022 Labour Law, employees can be required to use up all their annual leave in the applicable annual leave year, and employers are encouraged to update any policies that limit carry-over of leave.

Sick leave

If an employee is sick or has injuries that prevent them from working, they should report to their employer within a maximum of two days.

Employees in the UAE are not entitled to sick pay during their probationary period, but after a period of three months following probation, sick leave is applicable as follows:

  • The full wage for the first 15 days
  • Half wage for the next 30 days

Any sick leave exceeding 30 days must be taken unpaid. If the illness has been directly caused by misconduct, e.g. excessive drinking, the employee is not entitled to sick pay. Employees are required to provide evidence of their illness via an official medical certificate.

Workers can resign during their sick leave, provided that the reason for resignation is approved by a physician. In this case, employers must pay all the wages the employee is entitled to until the end of the 45-day period of sick leave entitlement.

Employers are not permitted to dismiss an employee during their sick or annual leave unless the employee has used up all of their sick leave and is unfit to return to work. In this instance, the employee should receive a full gratuity and end-of-service entitlement. They will not be entitled to wages for the days they have not reported to work after the end of their leave.

If an employee does not report back to work within seven days from the day they were due back, employers are within their rights to terminate the employment agreement.

Maternity and paternity leave

Maternity leave in the UAE is applicable for 50 calendar days. Maternity pay is as follows:

  • Full pay for the first 45 days
  • Half pay for the remaining 15 days

Employees are also entitled to take maternity leave if they have miscarried after six months of pregnancy or in the event of a stillbirth or death of the child following birth. This leave will be the same as is detailed above.

If an employee gives birth to an infant with an illness or disability, they are entitled to an additional 30 days of leave, which can be further extended by another 30 days of unpaid leave if necessary.

At the end of the maternity leave, employees are allowed to extend their leave for a maximum of 45 days without pay.

During the six months following the birth of a child, employees who are nursing are entitled to two daily half-hour intervals to nurse their baby. These intervals are considered working hours and should not incur a wage deduction. According to the New 2022 Labour Law, employers cannot terminate an employee because they are pregnant or taking maternity leave.

Paternity leave is not provided for under the New 2022 Labour Law.

Compassionate leave

In the UAE, compassionate leave is as follows:

  • Five days in the event of the death of a spouse
  • Three days in the event of the death of a parent, sibling, child, grandchild or grandparent

Study leave

Employees who have worked at a company for more than two years can take ten days of study leave per year. This leave allows them to sit examinations. They will need to be affiliated with an approved UAE educational institution to qualify for this leave.

Public holidays in the United Arab Emirates

The UAE observes the following national holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Eid al-Fitr (celebrated on five consecutive days)
  • Arafat Day
  • Eid al-Adha (celebrated on three consecutive days)
  • Islamic New Year
  • Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday
  • Commemoration Day
  • National Day (celebrated on two consecutive days)

Attracting talent in the United Arab Emirates

The UAE’s low-tax environment, low crime rate and advanced business culture make it an excellent choice for business expansion.

However, these factors also make the UAE a competitive environment for companies looking to attract talent. To differentiate your organisation from others in the UAE, consider employee benefit programs that provide a unique experience reflective of the rewarding nature of the UAE market.

Here are some of the ways businesses can attract top talent in the UAE:

Provide opportunities for career development

A recent study by Michael Page found that 70% of UAE nationals said training and development is among their most-wanted employment benefits.

High performers are always looking for ways to learn new things and will more than likely want to join a company that provides career growth opportunities. These opportunities could take the form of professional development plans or 1-2-1 mentorship. Regardless, organisations should focus on offering potential employees clear information about potential career pathways they can take within the company.

Build policies that promote a good work-life balance

The COVID–19 pandemic introduced some significant changes in the way organisations around the world do business. Employee perspectives changed, and now workers place a high amount of value on companies that promote flexibility and employee well-being.

Interestingly, the Michael Page study found that the majority of UAE employees would prefer to work partially in the office and partially at home. Reasons for wanting to work at least partly in a non-home work environment included wanting to feel more engaged in their job, to take part in face-to-face meetings and to maintain social connections.

Where possible, organisations should offer a flexible working routine that incorporates both remote and non-remote arrangements.

Airswift hiring guide UAE Business people shaking hands

Termination of employment in the United Arab Emirates

According to the New Labour Law, employees must be engaged through fixed-term contracts. These can last for up to a maximum of three years. As of February 2022, employers in the UAE have up to one month to transfer employees from unlimited-term contracts to limited-term contracts.

In the event of a dismissal, in addition to notice, employers must pay compensation of up to three months’ wages if the dismissal results in a valid claim to the court.

Notice Period

The minimum notice periods for a fixed-term employment contract, introduced by the New Labour Law, are stipulated as follows:

  • 30 days if the period of service is less than five years
  • 60 days if the period of service is higher than five years
  • 90 days if the period of service is higher than ten years

However, these notice periods are not applied for limited-term contracts, where employees are permitted to agree to a notice period with their employer. This period must be a minimum of 30 days and no more than 90 days.

Probationary periods

The legal probationary period in the UAE is a maximum of six months, according to Article 9 of the Federal Decree-Law No. (33) of 2021.

Severance pay

Employees are entitled to a gratuity for the severed fraction of the year. This is on the condition that they complete one year of continuous service.

What are my options for hiring in the United Arab Emirates?

If you’re looking to expand your business to the UAE, a company like Airswift can help you get started. We offer employment solutions designed to ensure you stay compliant across all local legal requirements, including tax, payroll, termination procedures and working hour obligations.

Our in-country teams have the expertise and knowledge necessary to save your organisation from unnecessary risk, freeing up your time to focus on the other prospects of international business growth.

Hiring options businesses can explore include:

Talent acquisition

talent-acquisition

Airswift can source and deliver the talent you need across a wide range of industries by leveraging our expertise and employee networks across the UAE.


Whether you want to hire for an urgent project or need to cover a staffing shortage, we are committed to finding a contractor to suit your needs. Our contract hire services are catered to organisations that need temporary hires to fulfil a range of requirements.

Finally, if you’re looking to hire candidates that can grow with your company, we have professional search services that provide access to highly skilled job seekers who are ready for work. We also take care of all the administrative processes, from shortlisting candidates to screening and onboarding them.

Employer of record

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We understand that hiring and expanding globally is a complex process and an Employer of Record in the United Arab Emirates can help you hire employees without setting up a local entity. Working with an Employer of Record in the UAE allows you to get up and running in as little as 72 hours. Once your employee has been given the green light, we will take care of everything from onboarding and benefits management to tax filings and annual leave allowance.

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*Although the information provided has been produced from sources believed to be reliable, no warranty, express or implied, is made regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality or reliability of any information. For the latest information and specific queries regarding particular cases, please contact our team.

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