Emirati government officials are drawing up new policies for temporary employment contracts, paving the way for more part-time work and potentially ushering in the possibility of a gig economy.
Humaid Bin Deemas Al Suwaidi, assistant undersecretary for Labour Affairs at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE), announced the policy shift at the 106th meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“UAE Labour Law does not itself provide for temporary – ie. short-term work – but does specify that employment contracts can be for a limited or unlimited term,” said Sarah Anderson, senior associate at Hadef & Partners law firm.
Before 1 January 2011, it was not possible for employees to lawfully work for a third party. From that point, a new cabinet resolution introduced five types of internal work permits: work transfer, temporary work, part-time work, personnel sponsored by family, and juvenile – all intended for UAE residents.
“An employee with the consent of his or her sponsor and the MOHRE can work for a third party and therefore have two employers concurrently under a temporary work permit (TWP) arrangement,” said Anderson. “The TWP process is only available between ‘onshore’ organisations under the remit of the MOHRE. A TWP is valid for a period of six months but can be re-applied for after expiry.”
Many free zones will offer a temporary work or access card, but usually for those who are resident and sponsored in the UAE. In addition, individuals sponsored by a licensed manpower company may work for other employers on a temporary basis.
Mayne Whaley, a UAE-based expert on human capital, said: "Putting in place controls to manage a contingent workforce would benefit both workers and employers. This will protect workers who could be susceptible to issues such as underemployment, and by the same token would help organisations optimise their temporary contractors’ resources and reap the full benefits of having a temporary workforce."
Elie Georgiou-Botaris, practice leader for talent management Middle East at Willis Towers Watson, said the constantly changing nature of workplace dynamics has created the need for a shift in the way work gets done “in order to cope with work modernisation and seasonality, as well as meet the evolving nature of work and changing market demands.
“There will be an increasing demand by employers for new skill sets and profiles that can fulfil work requirements, in the short- and medium-term, without having to cause a burden on the company when hired on full-time basis,” said Georgiou-Botaris. “This will allow the company a high level of flexibility to pick and choose the best available talent for specific work assignments.”
In line with this shift in the way work gets done, the organisation and cost structures need to be altered, as the majority of work will be done through contractors and consultants, said Georgiou-Botaris.
“Headcounts and fixed budgets will be reduced, and a move will be made towards slimmer and more cost-effective structures. As the market in the UAE enjoys a wealth of talent, with a wide variety of skills and expertise that can be employed temporarily to get the work done, it could very easily evolve to become a major talent hub in the region. Talent on-demand and cross-border mobility could become the way of the future,” he added.
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