UAE Labour Law: How Free Zone Employees Can File a Labor Complaint


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Working in a free zone in Dubai comes with its own set of challenges. If you’re facing issues like unpaid wages, problems with overtime pay, or late salary payments, you have the right to file a labor complaint. However, the process for filing the complaint is slightly different for free zone workers because most free zones in the UAE have their employment regulations. 

Understanding Free Zone Employment Regulations

Most UAE-free zones have independent employment regulations, but they generally align with the UAE Labor Law. However, companies located in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) jurisdictions follow separate labor laws. Sunil Ambalavelil, principal partner at Nasser Yousuf Alkhamis Lawyers (NYK Lawyers) and Legal Consultants, explains that every free zone has its own employment rules, which are in concurrence with the UAE Labour Law.

Understanding UAE Labour Law

UAE Labour Law is a set of legal guidelines that govern the relationship between employers and employees within the UAE. This comprehensive framework ensures the protection of workers’ rights and sets standards for employment conditions across the country.

Common Labour Issues in Free Zones

Unpaid Wages: One of the most common complaints among free zone employees is unpaid wages. This issue can arise due to various reasons, such as company financial difficulties or mismanagement.

Overtime Pay Discrepancies: Another frequent issue is discrepancies in overtime pay. Employees may find that their extra hours are not being compensated according to the agreed-upon terms or legal requirements.

Late Salary Payments: Late salary payments can cause significant financial strain on employees. Free zone workers often face delays in receiving their salaries, which can disrupt their financial planning.

Required Documents

When filing a labour complaint, there’s no specific document requirement. Free zone employees have access to all employment records. However, it’s advisable to keep a copy of your passport and employment contract handy for ease of registration.

Filing a Labor Complaint

If you’re free zone employees in the UAE facing issues like unpaid wages, overtime pay discrepancies, or late salary payments, you have the right to file a labor complaint. Here’s how you can navigate this process:

  1. Contact Your Free Zone Authority

Your first step should be to reach out to the free zone authority under which you are registered. Clearly explain the issue you’re facing, whether it’s related to wages, working conditions, or any other employment-related problem. The free zone authority is your initial point of contact and is responsible for addressing and documenting your complaint.

  1. Mediation and Resolution

Once you have raised your complaint, the free zone authority will contact your employer to mediate and attempt to resolve the dispute. This mediation process is designed to find an amicable solution without escalating the issue further. However, if mediation fails and the dispute remains unresolved, the free zone authority will issue a document. This document is essential for escalating your complaint.

  1. The Crucial Referral Letter

The document provided by the free zone authority could be a non-objection certificate or a referral letter. This referral letter is crucial, as it must be included when filing your labor complaint with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE). It serves as proof that you attempted to resolve the issue with your free zone authority before escalating it to MOHRE. This step is vital because MOHRE requires evidence that all efforts to mediate the issue at the free zone level were exhausted.

By following these steps and obtaining the necessary referral letter, you can ensure that your labor complaint is properly documented and that you have fulfilled the initial requirements for MOHRE to take up your case.

Filing Online with MOHRE

To file your complaint online with MOHRE, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the MOHRE website.
  2. Click on “Start Service.”
  3. Provide your full name and mobile number. You’ll receive a one-time password (OTP) on your phone. Verify it on the website and select whether you’re an employee or a company.
  4. Fill out the application form with the following details:
    • Name
    • Company or employer name
    • Employee mobile number
    • Employer mobile number
    • Free zone name
    • Nationality
    • Passport number
    • Date of the referral letter issued by the free zone
    • Location of the free zone labor office
  5. Upload your referral letter and Emirates ID copy.
  6. Click “Register Complaint.”

You’ll receive an SMS confirming your application status, and MOHRE will follow up after reviewing your case.

As a free-zone employee, understanding the labor complaint process is essential. Follow these steps to protect your rights and seek resolution when facing workplace issues. Remember that seeking legal advice is always recommended for specific cases.

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