New DIFC employment law and regulations enacted


His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE has enacted the Employment Law Amendment Law No. 4 of 2020, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) announced on Tuesday, 14th January 2020.

The Amendment Law introduces the new Qualifying Scheme workplace regime in the DIFC, replacing the current end-of-service gratuity payment system that has been in place since the inception of DIFC in 2004.

The new regime commences on 1st February 2020, from which employers will make mandatory monthly contributions to a professionally managed and regulated savings plan. The plan replaces the existing accrual of end-of-service gratuity benefits in favour of employees, which is currently in line with the rest of the UAE.

The Board of Directors of the DIFC Authority has also issued new Employment Regulations that set out the requirements for Qualifying Schemes. Employers will have until 31st March 2020 to enroll into a Qualifying Scheme. These include the DIFC Employee Workplace Savings (DEWS) Plan, established by the DIFC as a best-in-class default Qualifying Scheme after a competitive bidding process. Alternatively, employers may seek a Certificate of Compliance from the DIFC Authority for an alternative Qualifying Scheme as long as it complies with the new regulations.

The requirements for Qualifying Schemes reflect the DIFC’s commitment to robust regulation in the DIFC. The requirements include having an oversight body that will have the right to appoint and remove the scheme operator, and review its governance and fees imposed on the scheme. In addition, Qualifying Schemes must require employer and employee representation and independent oversight with the aim of ensuring the proper protection of the employee’s interests.

Other key changes include:

a) allowing employees to make voluntary workplace savings contributions into a Qualifying Scheme on top of the mandatory monthly contributions to be made by employers under the Employment Law;

b) ensuring that any accrued end-of-service benefits under the current regime remain in place, also providing employers with the option to pay these accrued benefits into a Qualifying Scheme;

c) creating exemptions for certain types of employees, such as those on secondment in the DIFC, short-term workers, equity partners, and employees working for government departments and bodies that have a presence in the DIFC;

d) settling the mandatory contributions to be made by employers at 5.83% of the monthly basic wage (for employees who have less than five years’ service), and 8.33% of the monthly basic wage for employees who have longer service;

e) creating exemptions for international institutions who have a statutory obligation to make pension, retirement or similar contributions on behalf of their employees elsewhere, as well for employers who wish to provide a regulated defined benefit scheme to their employees that provides for benefits in excess of what the mandatory defined contributions are under the DIFC Employment Law.

His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, said: “With a firm commitment to creating a prosperous hub for our 24,000 professionals based at the DIFC, these comprehensive enhancements to DIFC Employment Law Amendment will give clear guidance to employers and employees seeking to grow their savings securely while fortifying both their interests. By doing this, the DIFC also sets a clear example for others to follow global best practice in this regard.

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