There is no minimum wage. Average salaries, which depended on the occupation and employer, were estimated at around 400 dirhams (approximately $110) per month for domestic or agricultural workers and 600 dirhams ($164) per month for construction workers. There was little information on public sector salaries.
The law prescribes a 48 hour workweek and paid annual holidays. There are legal provisions requiring overtime pay, and excessive compulsory overtime is prohibited.
The government sets occupational health and safety standards. The law requires employers to provide employees with a safe work and living environment. The law also provides for minimum rest periods and limits the number of hours worked, depending on the nature of the work. For example, the law mandates a two-and-a-half-hour midday work break for most outdoor laborers between June 15 and September 15.
Wage and hour, overtime, and other protections with regard to working conditions do not apply to workers in domestic services, agriculture, and other categories administered by the Ministry of Interior. These workers were more vulnerable to unacceptable conditions of work.
The Ministry of Labor was responsible for enforcing laws governing acceptable conditions of work for workers in semiskilled and professional job categories but did not do so effectively in all sectors, including the informal sector. No data was available on the total number of labor inspectors.
The Ministry of Labor conducted inspections of workplaces--primarily construction sites--throughout the year. According to the local press, the Supreme Committee for Labor Crises Management conducted 5,015 labor inspections during the first five months of the year. The government routinely fined employers for violating the midday break rule and published compliance statistics. In at least one case, the government imposed a significant fine for negligence after a worker was permanently injured at his workplace. However, during July and August--the hottest months of the year--the government exempted oil, asphalt, and cement companies from following the law, and construction workers were at risk of heat stroke and subsequent death due to extreme heat conditions. On September 3, the local press reported that, according to Ministry of Labor statistics, 99.81 percent of 53,983 companies in the country complied with the midday break rule and only 102 companies failed to do so.
The government took action during the year to address wage payment issues. The government’s vigorous implementation of the WPS and fines for noncompliance discouraged some employers from not paying salaries to foreign workers under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor. The WPS, an electronic salary transfer system that allowed institutions to pay workers via approved banks, exchange bureaus, and financial institutions, was intended to ensure timely and full payment of agreed wages. More than 300,000 smart pay cards were in use with an additional 8,000-10,000 new cards issued and used each month. Pursuant to some bilateral agreements with foreign countries, the government continued to develop the structure of a pilot electronic verification system introduced in 2011 to verify and validate contracts with some labor source countries to protect workers from contract substitution and other fraudulent activities. New penalties for companies implemented by the Ministry of Labor included a 5,000 dirhams ($1,362) fine per worker for wages delayed 60 days. Companies that did not pay multiple workers their wages within 60 days were subject to a maximum fine of 50,000 dirhams ($13, 623). As of December there were 234,459 private sector companies registered with WPS and a total of 3,476,691 workers enrolled in the program. However, the WPS did not apply to foreign workers under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, including domestic and agricultural workers.
The government increased its efforts to provide adequate health standards and facilities in the labor camps, including food safety. The Ministry of Labor conducted regular inspections of health and living conditions at labor camps. According to the ministry, camps were provided written documentation on the issues that were to be addressed, on which the ministry followed up in subsequent inspections. The ministry employed interpreters to assist foreign workers in understanding employment guidelines and during some inspections of labor camps. The Ministry of Labor operated a toll-free hotline in Arabic, English, and Urdu through which workers were able to report companies that violated break rules or delayed wage payments.
Since 2010 the government has allowed foreign workers to switch jobs without a letter of permission from their employer. According to labor regulations announced in January 2011, foreign employees had the option to work without an employment contract or, in cases in which a contract was in force, to change employer sponsors after two years as well as within the first two years in certain cases. This regulation was designed to improve job mobility and reduce the vulnerability of foreign workers to abuse. However, the regulation did not apply to day laborers, construction workers, or domestic servants.
Violations of wage, overtime, and other labor regulations were common in sectors employing migrant workers, such as construction. Foreign workers frequently did not receive their wages from employers on time, and sometimes for extended periods. The absence of protections for domestic and agricultural workers left them vulnerable to long work hours, non- or underpayment of wages, and otherwise abusive or exploitative work conditions.
Each emirate enforced its own standards for housing accommodations. On May 3, the Dubai municipality announced that construction companies and industrial firms would be required to appoint safety officers accredited by authorized entities to promote greater site safety. Some low-skilled and foreign workers faced substandard living conditions, including overcrowded apartments or unsafe and unhygienic lodging in labor camps, some of which lacked electricity, potable water, and adequate cooking and bathing facilities. At year’s end newer worker accommodations were being constructed.
Occupational health and safety conditions remained inadequate for many workers, particularly migrants. A September audit by PriceWaterhouseCooper, contracted by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) to report on conditions at Saadiyat Island, found that the government-owned entity faced “significant challenges to carry out agreed-upon minimum labor standards.” While the report noted a significant reduction in employer retention of workers’ passports, it also identified widespread illegal deductions from worker salaries, substandard living conditions in employer-provided accommodations, illegal recruitment practices abroad, and other problems. TDIC developed a revised employment practices policy that includes penalties for noncompliance.
There were several cases during the year in which workers were injured or killed on job sites due to inadequate safety measures. Although the law requires the government to monitor job-related injuries and deaths, in practice the government registered the cases but did not consistently follow-up on them. In at least one case, the government imposed a significant fine for negligence after a worker was permanently injured at his workplace.
Reports of migrant worker suicides or attempted suicides continued and were frequently linked to poor working conditions, fear of abusive employers, heavy debts caused by exploitative labor recruitment agencies, and low wages relative to high living costs. The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, a quasi-governmental organization, conducted vocational training programs with some elements aimed at decreasing suicidal behavior.