UAE: Sick leaves, work-from-home during Covid-19; Know Your Right’s
Diagnosed with Covid-19 or got in close contact with someone infected? It’s important to know your legal rights in the workplace under the new labour law, which will come into effect on February 2, 2022.
What happens when employees test positive for Covid-19? Are their leaves considered as part of their sick leave balance?
Under the new Federal Decree-Law No. (33) of 2021 on the regulation of labour relations (the “New Labor Law”), employees who have completed their probationary period are eligible for sick leaves and such sick leaves cannot exceed 90 days a year. Article 31(3) of the New Labor Law stipulates that during the 90-day period, the employee is entitled to full payment for the first 15 days and a half-day pay for the next 30 days. If the employee had consumed 45 days of sick leaves during that year, then he is not entitled to any further compensation from the employer for the subsequent sick leaves taken during that year.
How many days of leave Covid-19 patients can avail themselves of?
It is mandated by the authorities for all citizens and residents of the Emirate of Dubai to isolate for at least 10 days in the event they contract Covid-19. Given that Covid-19 is an illness, an employee (who has completed his/her probationary period) should be entitled to claim these 10 days or more (depending on the severity of the symptoms) as part of his/her sick leave entitlement.
What happens when employees with no sick leave balance contract Covid-19?
In the event the employee consumes his/her sick leave entitlement during that year, the employer may deduct such additional days from other statutory leaves, such as annual leave for instance.
How about public sector employees? How many days of sick leave can they avail themselves of?
The recent unified work regulations, to take effect from February 2, provided that private sector and federal government employees are entitled to a 90-day sick leave for every year of service. With regards to public sector employees, there is no single legislative instrument to apply federally, as each Emirate has its own legislation in this regard.
What if an employee on probation catches Covid-19 and their contract allows no paid leaves during probation?
The New Labour Law is very clear in this regard. Article 31(2) provides that if the employee did not complete his probationary period, then he/she is not entitled to sick leaves. However, the employer may choose to grant such employee an unpaid sick leave. That said, this will purely depend on the relationship between the parties in question.
What is the right course of action to take when employees come into close contact with a positive Covid-19 case? Do they avail a sick leave?
The first important action to be taken is to inform the employer of the situation, get tested and work from home (if the nature of employment allows the employee to work remotely) until the test result is received, otherwise, take that day as a sick leave. Should the test result confirm that the employee in fact contracted Covid-19, then the employee may agree with the employer to work from home (if the nature of employment and employee’s health condition allows that) until the employee recovers or claim the isolation period as sick leave.
What if a former Covid-19 case comes into contact with someone infected? Are they still eligible for sick leaves?
Yes, the same rule will apply as if contracted for the first time. Covid-19 patients, especially those asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, continue their work from home despite their diagnosis.
How does the law apply in such cases?
The New Labour Law is silent in this regard, thereby providing flexibility to each Emirate and the employers in deciding the “work from home” system internally.
What are some provisions in the labour law, currently in effect, that govern working from home?
The “work from home” system was never a statutory right under the old labour law, nor it is a statutory right under the New Labour Law. The “work from home” system was introduced by a ministerial decision of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (“MOHRE”) during the public health crisis caused by COVID-19. Currently, the “work from home” policy is dictated between each employee and employer as they deem fit for the organization.
By. Mr. Bahriddini Sultan