Dubai eases COVID-19 movement restrictions as DIFC announces important new emergency measures


The Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management has announced a partial reduction in the restrictions on movement in Dubai starting from Friday 24th April 2020.

Businesses can partially re-open with a maximum of 30% of the workforce allowed to work from their offices while the rest will be required to work from home.

Meetings should be held at the office only if it is absolutely necessary. Attendees should not exceed five people and each person should maintain a two meter distance from others.

Daily sterilisation of the workplace is mandatory and employees and visitors should be provided with sanitisers at all times. Everyone is required to wear face masks in the office.

DIFC passes Presidential Directive No. 4 on Emergency Measures

After a wide-ranging consultation with key stakeholders, including leading law firms, DIFC has announced DIFC Presidential Directive No. 4 of 2020, which seeks to help limit the impact of the COVID-19 situation, and is effective from 21st April 2020 until 31st July 2020 (the “Emergency Period”).

The new Directive provides greater flexibility to DIFC-based employers and increased protection to employees.

Companies based in DIFC will have the ability to introduce several emergency employment-related measures without consent of their employees in order to deal with the impact of the pandemic. These include the following:

  • reduced working hours
  • leave with or without pay
  • reduced salary
  • restricted workplace access
  • imposed remote working

The primary motivation of the Directive is to make it easier for DIFC employers to impose temporary changes to their employees’ terms of employment, which in turn will reduce the likelihood of employers having to terminate employment of their staff. This is beneficial to employees in the long run. It is important to note that these measures may only be imposed for the duration of the Emergency Period and any permanent changes will require employee consent.

The Directive ensures that any DIFC-based employee who contracts COVID-19 or has been quarantined by the local authorities to limit the spread of the virus, will retain full remuneration. This is in respect of their COVID-19 related sick leave pay and any such sick leave shall not be counted towards their annual sick leave entitlement.

Employers may also defer the visa cancellation process for their terminated employees to avoid any unnecessary hardship for them provided the employers continue to provide basic medical insurance cover. Employees working in the retail, service and hospitality sectors must also be provided accommodation in such circumstances.

The Directive also protects employees’ end-of-service gratuity accrued prior to the recent introduction of DEWS. The gratuity payments for a terminated employee’s gratuity payment will be calculated on their basic salary as of 29th February 2020 to ensure that any subsequent reduction of pay does not affect what they receive.

Through these options, the hope is that business owners can reduce operating costs and sustain business operations. They also give them the flexibility not to take drastic measures, such as ending an employee’s employment, as well as retaining key protection and benefits for employees and those who are terminated.

The Directive also makes provision for DIFC to create an “Available Employee Database” for employees who were made redundant in the current crisis, as well as those that are surplus to their employers’ current needs. The aim is to do the utmost to support these individuals find alternative employment.

In addition to dealing with employment related matters, DIFC also clarified clearly the privacy and cybersecurity related obligations of DIFC firms in respect of remote working conditions, as well as to suspend the wrongful trading obligations of DIFC established companies under the DIFC Insolvency Law during the Emergency Period.

The wrongful trading suspension is designed to ease the pressure on DIFC company directors fearful of being held personally liable for continuing to trade in a period of heightened uncertainty created by the steps taken to combat the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information on the above measures, please contact us.