Abdulla Al Awadi Advocates & Legal Consultants can provide support and guidance to all the corporates and individuals impacted by COVID-19.
BRIEF FAQ FROM A HUMAN RESOURCES POINT OF VIEW:
The first reported Coronavirus (or COVID-19) case was announced in December 2019. Since then, the number of reported cases has continued to grow around the world through human-to-human transmission. As concerned governmental authorities adjust their policies to respond to the pandemic, commercial bodies need directions on the most efficient way to address the issues in relation to their employees.Abdulla Al Awadi Advocates & Legal Consultants, in light of the UAE Federal Law No. (8) of 1980 and recent Ministerial Resolution No. (279) of 2020, provides you with answers to the most commonly asked questions related to UAE Labour Law.
Employers may face a risk of a claim of breach of employment contract should an employer ask an employee to stay at home for unpaid leave as there is no legal ground to unilaterally ask an employee to stay at home for unpaid leave.However, recently having the Ministerial Resolution No. (279) of 2020 (“Ministerial Resolution”) in place would devote and guide the employer and employee for a mediate understanding to maintain employment stability of the private sector during the period of application of precautionary measures.
Article (2) of the Ministerial Resolution provided flexibility to the employers affected by such precautionary measures and wishing to restructure their work to progressively proceed with an option of asking the employee to stay at home for unpaid leave. Nevertheless, the Ministerial Resolution is in compliance with the legal principle of the consensual contracts as it stipulates the need of the employee’s consent. Accordingly, a period of unpaid leave could, however, be agreed with the employee (in which case, such agreement should be recorded in writing).Nowadays many office workers will be able to work from home remotely, so it becomes a normal working day. Hence, if your employer is asking you to stay home and work remotely, they have taken that decision and you should still be paid. The same is also stipulated in the Ministerial Resolution as an option.
Employees could be required to take paid annual leave as such is permitted under the Federal Labour Law if they have sufficient leave balance available. As aforementioned, it could also be agreed with the employee that the employee can work from home remotely or take a period of unpaid leave during this period. However, such an arrangement should be on contractual basis in writing agreed by the employer and the employee.
If the employee can work remotely from home, and the employer can help you do that by providing the necessary equipment, then the employee can carry on working and get paid normally.However, if the employee’s kind of work is in a factory where the employee can only do the job on the site, then the employer is under no obligation to pay. This will affect individuals more than businesses. We at Abdulla Al Awadi Advocates & Legal Consultants advise employers to be generous and ensure that potentially affected employees stay home. However, employees in such situations may ask for this period to be classed under annual leave, of course, provided that a sufficient leave balance is available.
In the absence of specific articles of law adopted exceptional policies to be implemented during periods of force measures, Article (2) of the Ministerial Resolution indicated several choices to be followed progressively where temporary or permanent salary reduction is an option. Temporarily reduction to be during the referenced period of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Ministerial Resolution strictly requires a form of supplementary agreement to be entered between employers and employees.
Schedules (1) and (2) of the Federal Labour Law sets out a list of profession injuries and diseases which require compensation if contacted at work. However, COVID-19 is not listed.In this light though, whether or not an employee could claim compensation for contacting COVID-19 at work will depend on the circumstances and whether the employee can conclusively establish the link between work and contacting the virus as a general rule to prove the damage.
We at Abdulla Al Awadi Advocates & Legal Consultants strongly advise all employers to consider an emergency response procedure in which the management creates a clear action plan for reporting coronavirus cases with regards to employees suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19. Such reporting shall be made to the health authorities and preventive medicine department.Accordingly, employees testing positive with COVID-19 would be placed in quarantine. It is also possible that the concerned authorities will then trace the people whom the affected employee came into close contact with.
If an employee tested positive for Coronavirus and entitled to sick leave, we believe that this should be treated in the same way as any other sickness absence in terms of payment. The Federal Labour Law provides that an employee is entitled to (90) calendar days of sick leave in any (12) months period. The first (15) days are payable at full pay, the next (30) at half pay and the remaining (45) days are unpaid.
We advise the employer in such situations to be generous and flexible if the employee travelled for work. If an employee is found in these circumstances, but can work remotely, then this period would be paid. However, an employee may ask to extend their leave if he still has a sufficient leave balance.
Employees must take it seriously should they feel ill or have any kind of COVID-19 symptoms. Accordingly, employees need to put their health and that of the rest of the workforce ahead of their individual interest i.e. to be paid.If an employee is sick, or has potentially COVID-19 symptoms, they should consider asking for a paid sick leave to ensure recovery and that the rest of the workforce are protected and safe.Employees will be criminally charged under recent resolutions issued in this regard should they are sure that they contracted COVID-19 and disregard the quarantine protocols.
On 26 March 2020, the MOHRE issued a resolution concerning private sector employers starting from 29 March until 12 April 2020, to do the following:
- Only 30% of the workforce should attend the workplace;
- Customers taking up 30% of customer capacity in the place of business should be admitted to the premises;
- The employer provided labour bus or transportation should only carry 25% of its normal capacity – i.e. the bus should not be full.
Accordingly, we advise that employers to internally plan workforce attendance at the workplace in line with the aforesaid resolution.