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11 November 2020
The United Arab Emirates has updated its labour law to require equal pay for men and women who perform the same work or work of equal value.
On 25 September 2020 the updated UAE Labour Law 8/1980 took effect and aims to strengthen the United Arab Emirates' commitment to gender equality in the workplace, according to a government press release.
What counts as work of 'equal value' will be based on guidance and further details set by the government, following the recommendations of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE). It is understood that market standards will be used as a reference in wage assessments.
The government and the Gender Balance Council have been proactively seeking to improve and develop gender equality in the United Arab Emirates in recent years and the introduction of this new wording to the UAE Labour Law is another example of the authorities implementing real and significant changes to the legislation.
There has always been the principle of equal pay in the UAE Labour Law, but this development indicates that the authorities will be more proactive with the monitoring and enforcement of equal pay in the private sector workforce.
The new wording indicates that MoHRE will work with the government to develop the procedures and standards that will be used to properly implement this tangible public policy and government objective of achieving equal pay between the genders. The immediate next step for companies and their legal and HR teams is to review their pay scales, pay policies and actual payroll to ensure that they are achieving pay equality across all levels of their workforce.
The new wording appears as some updated wording to Article 32 of the UAE Labour Law, the main legislation governing employment relationships in the UAE private sector.
Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, president of the Gender Balance Council, stated that the change "will undoubtedly boost the social inclusivity of women, support their role in national development, and advance the [United Arab Emirates'] status on the world's Gender Equality Index".
The Gender Balance Council was established in 2015 with the aim of increasing the United Arab Emirates' ranking on the United Nations Development Programme's Gender Inequality Index. The United Arab Emirates currently ranks first in the Gulf region and 35th globally for gender equality.
Earlier in 2020, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country to grant paid parental leave to all private sector employees (for further details please see "Paid parental leave rights introduced"). Male employees are now entitled to five days' paid leave in the six months following the birth of a child.
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