The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) has issued the Ministerial Resolution No. 281 of 2020 (Resolution) on 29 March 2020. The Resolution regulates remote working in the private sector during the Covid-19 crisis. The Resolution is the first binding legal source on remote working. It clarifies how employers and employees should implement flexible working structures. This article provides an analysis of the Resolution.
1. What has happened so far?
Even though the concept of remote working is not unfamiliar in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it was not widely practiced before the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. However, in light of the precautionary measures adopted by the UAE’s government and to minimise the disruption to work, on 26 March 2020, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) issued Ministerial Resolution No. 279 of 2020. The resolution was issued to increase the stability of employment in the private sector. Ministerial Resolution No. 279 of 2020 regulates that private companies should implement a remote working system before granting paid or unpaid leave or agreeing on temporary or permanent salary reductions (Ministerial Resolution No. 279 of 2020).
Following this, on 29 March 2020, MOHRE passed Ministerial Resolution No. 281 of 2020 (Resolution) to regulate remote working in the private sector. The Resolution also includes a brief guide, added as an annex to the Resolution, on how to implement remote working structures.
2. What are the essential requirements under the Resolution?
The Resolution requires that a maximum of thirty percent (30%) of the workforce of private entities is allowed to be physically present in an office or a workplace at any given time. The Resolution emphasises that a remote working system should be implemented, and the majority of employees whose presence is not physically required at the premises should be encouraged to work from home (Art. 1 Resolution).
Moreover, if a business operates service centres, it should ensure that no more than 30% of the capacity is occupied at any given time, whilst ensuring that proper controls are in place to maintain sufficient distance between clients, continuous sterilization of devices and facilities (Art. 1 Resolution).
The Resolution entails that a remote working system should apply to all employees and workers whose jobs do not require their physical presence at workplaces. However, priority to work remotely should be given to
3. Which activities are exempted from the 30%-rule?
The Resolution provides that the activities related to infrastructure projects, catering, communications, energy, health, education, banking, food industries, hospitality, health supplies manufacturing, and cleaning companies are exempted and can continue to operate in full capacity and are exempted from the 30%-rule (Art. 3 Resolution).
4. What are the obligations set out in the Resolution?
General obligations to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus
Art. 2 of the Resolution lays out several measures employers in the private sectors must take:
Obligations regarding carrying out business remotely
The Resolution stipulates that all private entities should use smart and electronic applications, immediately upon the commencement of their activities through remote work. Businesses should also provide electronic mechanisms for support and assistance (Art. 5 Resolution).
Private entities that provide support governmental bodies should discuss with these clients directly how to ensure business continuity (Art. 6 Resolution).
Obligations regarding the organization of a remote working system for employees
The Resolution, further provides that all employers in the private entities must implement the procedures set out in the guidelines of the Resolution. Such methods include the following measures:
The guidelines also include procedures that must be followed by the employees. These include the following:
Prior to the issuance of MOHRE’s Resolution, there was no legal guidance on remote working. There is no question that Resolution No. 281 of 2020 will set the standard for future legislation in this respect. This having been said, it should be noted that the Resolution was issued under enormous time pressure. While the annexed guideline sets out comprehensible obligations for employers and employees, the definition of the industries exempted from the 30% rule could have been clearer. Regardless of this, the Resolution gives reasonably precise guidance on how employers and employees should implement remote working structures.
Dr. Constantin Frank-Fahle, LL.M.
Managing Partner | Attorney at Law
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