This summary of age discrimination law in the UAE has been prepared by Al Tamimi & Co www.tamimi.com.
Law No. (2) of 2015 on Combating Discrimination and Hatred (the ‘Law’) prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, belief, sect, faith, creed, race, colour, and/or ethnicity. It does not, however, address age discrimination.
The Abu Dhabi Global Market (‘ADGM’), a special financial free zone operating in Abu Dhabi, has its own regulations based on English common law, namely the ADGM Employment Regulations of 2015 (‘ADGM Regulations’). The ADGM Regulations provides that an employer must not discriminate against an employee on a number of grounds, one of which is age.
The Dubai International Financial Centre (‘DIFC’), a financial free zone in Dubai which mirrors the English common law principles adopted by the ADGM, also has a new DIFC Employment Law (the ‘Proposed Law’). When published, it shall seek to replace the current DIFC Law No. (4) of 2005, as amended (the ‘Current Law’). At the moment, the Current Law does not include age as a protected characteristic against discrimination. One of the proposed changes to the Proposed Law seeks to prohibit age discrimination in the workplace. It remains to be seen however, as to whether this will form part of the Proposed Law once it is published and comes into force.
In the ADGM, only employees are covered.
What enforcement/remedies exist?
The ADGM 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 ADGM Regulations. Until these rules are made, there are no applicable limits on compensation for non-compliance with the ADGM Regulations.
As the 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, the ADGM is subject to the UAE Penal Code which does not contain any age discrimination provisions.
How common are claims?
Even though the ADGM Regulations came into effect in June 2015, the fines/penalties are yet to be determined. It may take some time for a case to be brought.
What claims are most common and what are the trickiest issues for employers?
Not applicable to date. As this is a fairly new area in the law, it will be interesting to see how age discrimination claims are raised, 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 benefitting more); and
It occurs as a result of a programme designed to assist disadvantaged individuals or groups.
There is no statutory retirement age for private sector employees in the UAE and as such, a termination for retirement reasons will be treated by the UAE Courts as a termination with notice.
Historically, it was difficult for a non-national employee over the age of 65 to obtain an employment visa (unless in exceptional circumstances) and such visas would require renewal on an annual basis; however we have been advised by the relevant authorities that their view in this regard is relaxing somewhat and that employees may still be able to obtain a residence visa after the age of 65, representing a significant change in position. Employees over 65 may now obtain work permits and residence visas valid for the same two-year duration as regular work permits and visas, but at a significantly higher cost.