Two new sets of regulations have come into effect recently. The first regulation impacts work-permit application fees for all businesses operating in onshore (non-free zone) the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The second regulation is limited to domestic staff and personal service workers, who will, for the first time, be provided with basic employment law protection.

Work Permits—Company Categories

A new resolution came into effect in December 2017 reestablishing the categories that companies fall under for the purposes of work permit application fees. The categories depend on the percentage of skilled employees in the business and the proportion of employees who come from Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh—traditionally countries that provide significant numbers of immigrant labor to the UAE.

A skilled worker is one whose job requires an attested academic degree higher than a high school degree or its equivalent.

Where the cultural diversity percentage is more than 50 percent (i.e., where non-Pakistani, non-Indian and non-Bangladeshi employees comprise more than 50 percent of the total employees in a company), then the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation will place a business in a category based on the percentage of skilled employees. These companies will be in more favorable categories than those that already employ over 50 percent of their workforces from these countries. The category a business is in will impact the expense of obtaining a work permit.

New Domestic Staff Law

A new law has been introduced that provides minimum employment rights to 19 service work occupations, including guards, parking valet staff, farmers, gardeners, domestic staff, cooks, nannies, private trainers, private nurses, and drivers.

The law contains provisions on working hours, paid sick leave, and a right to a day off work for rest each week. Further, the law also guarantees at least 12 hours of daily rest (8 of which must be consecutive hours).

Prior to the introduction of this law, there was no protection in these areas for domestic workers, who are not covered by the UAE’s labor laws.


The new work permit law is aimed at improving the cultural diversity in companies in the UAE.

While the law on domestic staff is unlikely to affect companies and employers directly, many will have employees who hire domestic staff, and will therefore be affected by the new law.

Written by Samir Kantaria of Al Tamimi & Co. and Roger James of Ogletree Deakins