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Article United Arab Emirates: Regulating Foreign Labor Recruitment Agencies

On August 22, 2022, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE’s) Ministry of Human Resources conducted a virtual bilateral collaboration meeting with the Thai Ministry of Labor on the recruitment of workers from Thailand’s workforce. During the meeting the parties discussed a number of labor issues, one of which is the regulation of employment agencies in the UAE that recruit Thai citizens to work in the Emirates. Representatives of employment agencies operating in both countries were present.

Role of Employment Agencies

Employment agencies play an important role in the UAE. They are one of the main ways for foreign nationals to come to the country to work, acting as intermediaries between the foreign nationals and Emirati private employers or organizations seeking foreign workers. Employers do not negotiate the labor contract with the person directly. They often negotiate employment contracts with the recruitment agency representing the foreign national. This grants employment agencies a high level of control over the terms and salaries of the labor contract.

Ministerial Decree No. 51 of 2022

In February 2022, the Ministry of Human Resources made changes to the licensing and permit requirements of employment agencies under Ministerial Decree No. 51 of 2022. The decree sets strict requirements and restrictions on granting licenses and permits to operate an employment agency. Additionally, it imposes fines and penalties on agencies violating the provisions of the decree.

The decree states that employees of the Ministry of Human Resources and their immediate families cannot act as the sole owners or partners of an employment agency. Additionally, recruitment agencies must have a clear physical address, with some exceptions for agencies that conduct their business solely online. Such agencies must obtain approval from the Ministry of Human Resources in order to operate. (Ministerial Decree No. 51 of 2022, art. 3.) Article 4 of the decree requires that the agency’s license be renewed annually. If the agency has not renewed its license within 30 days from the license expiration date, it is subject to fines.

The decree establishes a number of obligations that all employment agencies must adhere to. All labor contracts drafted by an employment agency must state clearly and in detail the obligations of both the employer and the employee.

Further, the decree requires that agency records be maintained for a period of two years. The records must include detailed contact information for both the employee and the employer. Additionally, the records must include the employee’s wage, hiring date, employment period, and other information. Such information must be sent to the Ministry of Labor every three months. (Art. 6.)

The decree further requires employment agencies to be responsible for paying the deportation fee or other fees incurred from an employee’s failure of a medical exam, being found unqualified, or failure to sign the standard government employment contracts. (Art. 7.)

The decree also identifies responsibilities of employers benefiting from the agencies, such as adhering to applicable labor laws, meeting employment safety standards, restricting work duties and labor hours to the persons cited in the original labor contract, informing the Ministry of Labor of any work accidents related to the employee, and not requiring the employee to work for any third party. (Art. 9.)

Agencies that violate the provisions of the decree will be subject to fines and the suspension of their license to practice. (Art. 10.) Article 11 states that the deputy minister of the Ministry of Human Resources is responsible for creating the procedures to obtain licenses for employment agencies and monitoring the performance of the agencies.

Why the Decree Was Issued

This decree was the result of an increase in recruitment scams within the UAE involving fake employment agencies and impersonators of legitimate agencies scamming job seekers within the UAE and internationally. The purpose of the new regulations is to enhance the level of control that the Ministry of Human Resources exercises over employment agencies.

Prepared by Ali Ebshara, Law Library intern, under the supervision of George Sadek, Foreign Law Specialist

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