New rules on flexibility in UAE workforce 'will bring huge advantages to employers'

Ability to hold multiple part-time jobs offers HR professionals the chance to rethink roles and reduce costs, say experts

It has been described as a watershed ruling – but the news that the UAE will officially allow individuals to work for multiple employers may have far deeper implications than many people realise, experts said.

The ruling from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) means that Emiratis and expats are now able to take up part-time employment with more than one employer without prior consent from their first employer. The ruling came into effect at the beginning of March.

Previously, a ‘No Objection Certificate’ had to be granted by the first employer or sponsor. Now, all that is needed is a permit that must be obtained from the Ministry. The ruling could kick-start a move towards a contingent workforce, reduce costs and skills pressures – and potentially boost Emiratisation.

The new decree applies to those classed as skilled first- and second-tier workers; employees with a university degree or higher, or a diploma in any technical or scientific field. Specifically, both jobs must be part time – the new ruling does not apply if an employee already in a full-time role wishes to work in a second job (those workers must still obtain permission from their primary employer).

Ammar El Banna, senior associate at law firm Hadef & Partners, said: “The MoHRE will inform all employers when it issues a permit to another employer, and there is also an obligation on the employee to inform all of their employers if they take another part-time role.”

El Banna noted an important clause that employers should be aware of, which states that “employers cannot prevent the employee from working in another establishment which is similar to their own by relying on a non-compete clause or confidential information clause, unless they have a court judgment which states that they can restrict the employee in this way”.

The resolution does not actually state that the primary employer can forbid their employee from working for a competitor, but it does impose the obligation on employees to notify their employer before taking on any part time role.

“It may even be necessary for the sponsoring employer to make it clear to their employees that it will constitute a valid reason for the termination of their employment if the employees accept a role with a competitor and there is a risk of dissemination of confidential information or loss of clients, even if doing so creates a risk of a court finding of an arbitrary dismissal compensation,” said El Banna.

“It will be interesting to see how certain parts of this law will work in practice, particularly in relation to the financial benefits with the secondary employer – as the resolution suggests that the employee can waive their right to end-of-service gratuity and other benefits in their employment with the secondary employer. Another interesting area is the fact that the employee could potentially work for a competitor,” he added.

There are, however, many positives to the enhanced flexibility the new ruling will bring to the labour market. The MoHRE’s new Minister, Nasser Al Hamli, said the new system would “improve flexibility in the labour market, cut costs and reduce companies’ dependence on workers imported from outside the country”.

Elie Georgiou-Botaris, practice leader, talent management Middle East at Willis Towers Watson, said he viewed the new law as part of a “major evolution” in the UAE workplace. He said: “It will allow employers to benefit from the wide range of skills currently available in the labour market, through hiring people with the right skills, at the right time, for a specific task, and within a definite period, therefore, achieving increased efficiency and effectiveness while eliminating or reducing unnecessary overhead and risk levels.

“It will also allow employees with specific skillsets to benefit from outsourcing their skills to become free agents and support multiple employers – increasing their level of employability while building more diverse skills, acquiring new experiences across several industries, as well as developing new competencies that will be required in the future to remain current and employable.

“HR departments, as strategic business partners, can support their organisations by taking advantage of this major development and starting to rethink jobs in their companies. HR’s next step should be to identify which jobs can be deconstructed into smaller components in terms of tasks or activities, identify what specific skills are needed to complete these tasks, and research how and where these skills can be sourced in the labour market, then mix and match talent to work.”

Georgiou-Botaris believes that jobs as we know them today will eventually no longer exist, and full-time employment will be a notion from the past. “Our recent global Future of Work Survey has revealed that about half of the employers surveyed say that contingent workers – part-timers, free agents or workers on loan – are just as likely to put in extra effort as full-time employees,” he added.

In the short term, however, Mina Adel, group human resources coordinator at Belhasa Holding, said the new law should help reduce costs for employers, as talent can be hired when it is needed. “The cost of hiring – visa processing, health insurance and so on – should also be less,” he added.

Employees will benefit from the opportunity to work for different organisations simultaneously. “Workers will improve their competence and income, as well as enjoying the benefits of business networking and the chance to work on a wide range of tasks.

“In terms of the public sector, I predict that the new law will eliminate the number of expats, except for the most talented and qualified,” concluded Adel.

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