This summary of age discrimination law in the UAE has been prepared by Al Tamimi & Co: www.tamimi.com
There is no age discrimination legislation in the UAE, with the exception of the newly introduced Abu Dhabi Global Market (“ADGM”).
ADGM is a special financial free zone which operates as a new jurisdiction carved out of the UAE and is not subject to UAE civil and commercial law. English common law applies in ADGM (with mechanisms that provide that it may be overridden by ADGM in certain instances).
ADGM employment regulations (“Regulations”) came into effect on 14 June 2015.
Article 55 of the Regulations provides that an employer must not discriminate against an employee on a number of grounds, one of which is age.
Only employees are covered.
What enforcement/remedies exist?
The Regulations provide that the Board of Directors of the ADGM may make rules setting out applicable fines and/or appropriate limits of compensation for non-compliance with the obligations under the Regulations. However, until such time that any such rules are made; there are no applicable limits on compensation due for non-compliance with the Regulations.
Given that ADGM is a common law jurisdiction, an employee could bring a civil claim for damages for breach of statutory duty.
In respect of criminal matters, ADGM is subject to the UAE Penal Code which does not contain any age discrimination provisions.
How common are claims?
As the Regulations have only come into effect (as of 14 June 2015) and the fines/penalties are yet to be determined, it may take some time for a case to appear.
What claims are most common and what are the trickiest issues for employers?
Not applicable to date as the Regulations have just come into effect. As this is a new departure within the UAE it will be interesting to see how it progresses particularly in respect of retirement as there is no statutory retirement age.
Are there any specific exceptions in your law?
Age discrimination can be justified where:
- An employer applies a bona fide occupational requirement which is reasonably necessary for the normal performance of a particular role or occupation;
- Enhanced benefits are paid for length of service (generally meaning that older employees are benefiting more); and
- It occurs as a result of a programme designed to assist disadvantaged individuals or groups.
There is no official retirement age for private sector employees in the UAE. Practically speaking, a non-national employee over the age of 65 will not get an employment visa (unless in exceptional circumstances). In respect of those over 60, they will only get a one year visa. A termination for retirement reasons will be treated by the UAE Courts as a termination with notice.