The Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) has announced the establishment of the ADGM Arbitration Centre, which will include the Middle East and North Africa representative office of the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration. The centre is forecast to be fully operational by January 2018. This marks an important development for arbitration in the region and provides users of arbitration in the Middle East with greater choice.
As a result of the economy experiencing an upswing over the past year, there was an increase in transactions and deal values in the first half of 2017. Further, because the United Arab Emirates put its plans to diversify its economy away from a dependency on oil into action, M&A activity outside the oil sector has been bolstered. In particular, there has been growth in the healthcare, education and retail sectors.
Redundancy is a sensitive and challenging topic in any jurisdiction. For companies operating in the United Arab Emirates, the issue is particularly complex as the UAE Labour Law does not set out any express statutory definition of 'redundancy' or 'redundancy procedure'. A company which fails to engage in a reasonable process or retain sufficient evidence to support a dismissal will always face an element of risk.
After a busy 12 months for the development of labour laws in the United Arab Emirates, the authorities look set to continue to focus on modernisation efforts in 2019. The reforms focus on, among other things, employment law, gender equality and multiculturalism, with the authorities announcing 2019 as the 'Year of Tolerance'.
The UAE authorities have been focusing on the development and modernisation of the employment law landscape over the past 12 months and look set to continue to do so in 2019. Of particular note is that 2019 has been declared the 'Year of Tolerance', with a particular focus on establishing the United Arab Emirates as a global reference point for a tolerant culture. Further, the authorities are expected to continue to consult on legislation to support women in the workplace in the short to medium term.
In collaboration with the courts, the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation recently launched a summary court to complement the One Day Labour Court. The new court is designed to speed up the process of litigating labour-related matters, including issues relating to the return of a passport or an emirates ID card, health insurance, accommodation and the cancellation of work visas. However, this fast-track system is designed to consider straightforward disputes only.
Non-cash employee benefits can create a value added tax (VAT) headache for businesses. Even fully taxable businesses in the United Arab Emirates may find that VAT recovery is blocked for certain activities. Further, even if input VAT is recoverable on the cost of the benefit, providing it to employees may trigger an obligation to account for VAT on the deemed supply of the benefit to the employee. For many benefits, the VAT treatment will vary depending on the circumstances.