Dubai jobs and employment
Dubai has started to resume its growth after the financial crisis in 2008, and with the winning of the Dubai 2020 Expo bid might once again be the fastest growing city in the world, or at least in the emirate of Dubai. It follows then that there is a large number of jobs in Dubai waiting for workers from all countries and professions. For some it is a fantastic experience with an enjoyable lifestyle, good professional development and an opportunity to save (or spend) some extra tax-free cash. But as they say, Caveat Emptor ...
Best way to find a job in Dubai
- Headhunted - the best way if you're in demand. Employers come to you. This generally only works for professions where you are known to a number of employers or headhunters, and are top of the class in your job. If you're in this category it is unlikely you are even going to be reading this page, in other words, if you are reading this, you are probably not headhunter material. Go to step 2, or change your profession.
- Networking - know someone who is in a position to give you a job and ask them. The closer you are to them, the higher the chances they'll give you a job. This doesn't work so well when there is a stringent testing and recruiting process.
- Apply directly to a company you want to work for. Either send an email, phone, or visit. Find their website, and search for a careers or vacancies section - large firms should have comprehensive information. Adjust your approach depending on the type of job, how large the company is. If you are going to visit them in person, have a shower first, put on some professional looking clothes, tidy your hair, and bring a copy of your CV. If you send an email, write the application letter as your email. Don't attach it as a separate document, and don't send just your CV without any letter. The internet makes it easy to search for a company, or a list of companies, with contact details and email addresses. Annoying for the company receiving a deluge of random job applications, so if you do this, make sure your email stands out - in a good way. Don't just spam your CV to 100 addresses at once, write a personal email and send each one individually - make it look like you are interested in working for that company, not just looking for a pay packet.
- Walk-in interview days. Usually advertised in newspapers or sometimes online. At least you're fairly certain of getting some face-to-face time with a company recruiter, however it is likely to be brief, and the initial impression counts for a lot. Events like this are popular and busy so as a first step, a recruiter is more likely to be looking for reasons to dismiss or delete the majority of applicants. Have a shower, dress professionally, do your hair, bring your CV, arrive early. Research the company and the position, be prepared for questions about both. You might only get one shot at answering a question and if you mess up, you're out.
End of the best ways. Now middle of the road ways.
- Recruitment agencies - possibly a worthwhile approach for specialists, professionals, senior management jobs. Generally a lazy way to find a job since in theory you fill out a form, submit a CV, and somone else does all the work for you. In practice you are competing with all the other lazy job seekers so the supply pool for employers is enormous, and not only do you have to be something special for them to pick you, they have to discover your details amongst all the others. Sometimes this works for positions where a company has a large demand for similar posts, but supply usually still far exceeds demand. Whatever you think of this method, walk away from any agency that requests money for any reason, unless it's for professional development reasons (and even then, be wary of scams and manipulation). There are enough legitimate agencies out there, and enough other ways to find a job if you're prepared to make an effort, that you don't need to pay an agency. Another point against this method is that if a company is using a recruitment agency, that can mean they are either too lazy to do the recruiting themselves, or worse, they are a bad enough company to work for that they can't find suitable applicants when they do try recruiting themselves. This is not always the case. For a small company without a human resources department it makes sense that they would use a recruitment organisation to find new employees. Find those companies and send them a CV before they start doing that, and you'll be saving them time and money, making yourself popular with them.
- Newspaper classified ads - not great for similar reasons as using recruitment agencies, but at least usually you know the jobs are real. The Gulf News has a separate section almost every day (minimal listings on Fridays) with job listings including many from the various job agencies, and is the best newspaper to get for job hunting, at least in terms of quantity of vacancies posted. The Khaleej Times also has a situations vacant section.
- Forum and website classified ad sections. If a forum or website is reputable and has a classified ad section, then it can be worthwhile, especially if the website is focused on some sort of specialist discussion. For example a petrolhead discussion forum advertising a car mechanic job. A popular website for classified ads, with a better reputation than most online sources, is dubizzle.com (but watch out, they are not immune to scams).
The worst ways to find a job in Dubai
- Recruitment agencies that charge money to applicants.
- Online job websites that aggregate job advertisements from newspapers and other sources. They are more likely to collect your details for spamming or worse, than to actually help you find a job. Also they get clogged up with out of date or expired job ads.
- Newspaper classified ads - if a company is advertising because people don't want to work for them (abusive employers, low salaries, unpleasant working conditions, promises not delivered, etc). Classified ads attract a large number of applicants but the best jobs and best employers do not use this method. The best employers rarely need to use an outside agency to help them - applicants know who they are and find them. If you want a good job with a good employer, you're going to have to put in some effort and find them too.
Caveat Emptor when looking for jobs in Dubai ...
- It can be difficult to filter out unscrupulous employers from the good ones when first trying to find a job in the UAE. Especially in situations where employers take advantage of employees in low-paid jobs who are unfamiliar with procedures and laws in the UAE, and with how things really work in the UAE anyway.
- Most of the time, employers have more wasta than employees, and often wasta can end up trumping what the rule-book says. There's not much in the way of protection from this, but a clear written contract can sometimes make a difference, so at least make sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed as best you can before finally signing a contract.
- To avoid difficult situations, make every effort to try and give yourself multiple job opportunities. This makes it easier to filter out any employers at the smallest sign they might not be planning to play on a level playing field with their employees. They know that once you're in their factory under their sponsorship in the UAE, it is difficult for you to get fair treatment or change jobs if conditions are unsatisfactory. There are good employers out there, or at least reasonably fair ones, but they are not always obvious initially.
- Your commitment to a job offer is a grey area until you at least sign a written contract. Even after that point, until the employer starts processing your employment visa, if it becomes apparent to you that your new employer is not what you thought they were, and you change your mind about going to work for them, it is unlikely that you will suffer any fallout if you notify them of a change in circumstances resulting in you not coming to work for them after all. In fact it is often the case that the true nature of an employer doesn't start to shine through until the visa application process is started - and this is a good point at which to reexamine things if there is anything not being done correctly, for example an employer telling you to get a tourist visa to enter the UAE, or requesting money from you to process the visa. Sometimes it's these small things which tell you a great deal about your future employer. Don't let your emotions cloud your rationality at this point.
- If there is a problem, and it looks like it will not be resolved by sensible communication and discussion, it is quite possible that the first party to complain to the Ministry of Labour has an advantage because of this (think back to when you fought with your brother or sister and the first one to complain to mummy or daddy got the benefit of influencing their opinion).
If you found this page because you're looking for the recruitment agency called "Jobs in Dubai" (apparently based in Canada), see the discussion about www.jobsindubai.com. It has a mixed reputation.
Finding a job in Dubai from overseas
- Ideally this is exactly what you'll do if you're looking for a job in Dubai for the first time.
- But reality is not the same as the ideal situation. Because a large number of people come to Dubai to go job-hunting, they are the ones who are in a better position to compete with you for jobs if you're not in the UAE.
- So if you are in a position to visit the UAE for at least several days, possibly a few weeks, then try and do that.
- If you're not in a position to do that, try and change your position so you are. It is likely to be the biggest factor which improves your chances of finding a job, or finding a better job in Dubai.
Types of Jobs and Salaries in Dubai
Recruitment Agencies and Consultants in Dubai
Writing a CV or Resumé
Work Visas (or Work Permits) in the UAE
Note that the words 'permit' and 'visa' are often mixed up. What's important to remember is that you need two separate permissions. One for working in Dubai and one for living in Dubai. The permission to stay or live in Dubai is what's stamped in your passport (the visa), and the permission to work is a labor card (the permit - is a separate document).
Anyone working in a job in Dubai (and the UAE) who is not a UAE citizen (or GCC national) must have a work permit (work visa, labour card) (three names often used for the same thing, although "work visa" is easily confused with "employment visa" which is an entry visa, not a work permit). This is not the same as a residence visa which is stamped in your passport. Unless you are setting up your own company, or you happen to be the PRO for your company, someone else in the company should arrange the work permit for you. The company is responsible for all costs related to the work permit and residence visa. Efficient companies should get your work and residence permits organised in a matter of a couple of weeks in Dubai if all paperwork is in order (up to a month in other emirates). But it is not unusual to wait weeks or even months for visas to be arranged. If the delay stretches beyond a month, and is not due to a documentation or nationality issue, it could be because your company is reluctant to get the visas processed in case you are dismissed during your probationary period.
Sponsorship in the UAE
- All expats must be sponsored - meaning a UAE citizen (or more usually a company) takes responsibility for the expat's behaviour while in Dubai (or UAE).
- Realisitically this just means having to show a residency visa for most bureaucratic expeditions such as connecting a telephone, opening a bank account, obtaining a driving licence etc.
- Your employer or sponsor is sort of in the role of a guarantor while the employee is in the UAE, although if an expat departs their job and Dubai suddenly, leaving behind unpaid debts, the sponsoring company shouldn't be liable for them. The sponsor might put the left behind gratuity payments towards clearing any debts though.
- Employees leaving according to normal Dubai departure procedure will not usually receive their gratuity payments until after they have presented clearance from the bank, utilities companies showing that there are no outstanding bills.
Working Without a Work Permit
- In a word, don't. It's illegal so therefore you have no rights. If you don't get paid for example, you cannot make a claim since you were working in Dubai illegally.
- It is not uncommon for expats to work on a visit visa however, and many people end up in this sort of situation by default because the company they are working for does not get their work permit and residency visa in a timely fashion.
UAE Labor Contracts, Labour Law, Probation Periods
When applying for, or accepting a job in Dubai, you should not pay any fees for any part of the job application, work permit, or visa application process. According to UAE law, the employer is responsible for all visa costs, and UAE job agencies are not supposed to ask applicants for job search fees, although many do. If any UAE job agency asks you for visa fees however, that should set off warning bells.
Maternity leave in Dubai and UAE
- Articles 30 and 31 of the UAE labour law cover maternity leave.
- Maternity leave of 45 days on full pay is the standard entitlement if a mother has worked at least one year. If less than one year, then the employee only gets half pay (still for 45 days though).
- A woman can take up to 100 days (consecutive or non-consecutive) leave without pay after maternity leave has finished, under certain conditions - she is breastfeeding and has a medical certificate to say she is sick.
- For 18 months after delivery of the baby, women are entitled to an additional two breaks per day (paid and up to half hour each) for the purpose of nursing the child.
- There doesn't seem to be any paternity leave allowance in Dubai.
- There is a report on the UAE Government website that in 1999 the Federal National Council (FNC) approved a law allowing maternity leave of 3 months on full pay and an additional 6 months on half pay by amending the text of Article 55. This is not one of the Labor Law articles, and applies to UAE national women only.
See forum discussion topic about maternity leave in the UAE for more information.
Non-payment of wages and salaries
Non or delayed payment of salaries is an issue that is rarely resolved in favor of the employee. Management and employers in Dubai are well aware of the poor reputation some companies and sectors have for not paying their workers. So if you end up in a situation where salary is not paid, and the company does not obviously do their utmost to rapidly rectify that (ignore what they say, it's what they do that is important), then you have, unfortunately, probably walked into a job in Dubai which is not going to turn out very well for you.
- You can file a complaint with the UAE Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs - you'll need your labor contract and ID. Some of the Free Zones can settle disputes without involving the Federal Ministry.
- Your embassy might be able to assist by providing a list of lawyers. In the past, embassies have become more involved in negotiations of wage disputes (usually involving labourers from the Asian sub-continent) but that's not something to be counted on.
- It's not all bad. There is a procedure to follow and claims are investigated with companies sometimes being penalised by being blacklisted from hiring more workers and/or bidding for government contracts. Complaints are sometimes resolved in favour of the worker but a case can drag on for months, making it difficult for an employee to pursue a satisfactory resolution of their complaint.
Working Conditions and Labour Unions in the UAE
During 2005 there was some unrest amongst the large number of construction workers in Dubai, with some protests (especially over unpaid salaries) and investigations resulting in Dubai gaining less desirable publicity in the international media. This may have prompted some changes in the treatment of the working class - albeit slowly. Present law says that unions are illegal although there is talk of changing this. However, apparently only UAE nationals will be allowed to form unions. Ongoing discussions in 2006 with the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and with the USA regarding a Free Trade Agreement have also resulted in closer scrutiny of various employment issues and working conditions.
- MafiWasta.com is a website that has information and commentary about UAE workers rights and conditions. Ironically, access has, on occasion, been blocked by the UAE telecoms authority (TRA) for contravening the "religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates." The TRA has not clarified why a website drawing attention to the poor treatment of labourers in the UAE is offensive, or who is offended by it (apart from the companies and bosses who treat their employees badly but that's obvious, and anyway the TRA has not said that it makes website blocking decisions based on requests from abusive employers). It's possible that the TRA is trying to hide information about the negative aspects of worker treatment in the UAE but that seems rather pointless since the TRA blocking filter is only effective in the UAE, and anyone living in the UAE is unlikely to need sites like MafiWasta.com to tell them what they already know about how workers are treated in the UAE. Whilst prospective workers surfing the internet from overseas are able to view MafiWasta.com whether or not the TRA blocks it in the UAE.
- Maids and other domestic workers are another occupational group that receives its fair share of criticism for harsh (or abusive) treatment, low salaries, and long working hours expected from employers. Local newspapers occasionally carry reports of maids being beaten, raped, unpaid, running away. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports usually highlight this issue also.
- These issues are less of a concern in most other professions. That's not to say it's always plain sailing but the average teacher or photocopier salesperson is unlikely to have to worry about not being paid for months, ending up in hospital with broken bones after being attacked by an unhappy boss, or ending up in jail because they got pregnant out of wedlock in Dubai as a result of being raped.
- You could say that management in the UAE tends to be more autocratic than in many western countries but less so compared to other Middle Eastern countries. That's a huge generalisation though, and you will see all extremes of management styles represented.
Passports and companies keeping your passport
A large number of employers keep expat employee passports in the UAE despite it being illegal. Save yourself a lot of bother and before you sign on the dotted line, ask about the company policy on keeping passports. If they say they don't, assume they are lying until you can verify independently that they are not. If they say they do, then at least you know before accepting a job, and can decide whether to continue with the process or try to find a different employer.
- Your employer in Dubai will need your passport to obtain a residency visa for you. They should then return your passport but it is very common for the company to attempt to retain your passport while you are working in the UAE.
- Newspapers have printed articles a number of times on this practice with various officials saying that this illegal and no company has the right to keep your passport.
- There is opportunity for a healthy dose of Dubai Irony here and sure enough, we're not disappointed. We discover that those very same newspapers have a policy of retaining staff passports. As do some of the government departments whose officials say it is not permitted. It is for the worker's benefit they claim - passports are safe and secure with the company. Well, at least until the employer loses them (which has happened).
Residency and Employment Bans
Hours of Work and Holidays
Most jobs in Dubai are either 5 days, 5 and a half, or 6 days per week. Make sure you know before signing. A number of people have arrived to find themselves unexpectedly working more than five days per week. The working week changed from Saturday - Wednesday to Sunday - Thursday for the public sector in September 2006. The private sector working week varies but mostly follows the government/public sector, and Friday is a common holiday or day off for all sectors.
Public holidays come in two varieties. The fixed dates - for example New Year on 01 January. And the changing ones for example Eid Al Ahda - the actual days are not announced until shortly before the holiday starts which depends on moon sightings.
Most jobs in Dubai will also give you about 4 weeks paid vacation time per year in addition to the public holidays.
If a ruler dies (either in the UAE or another Arabic country) it is common for the public sector to close for several days for mourning. The private sector shuts down also but not usually for as long. It is inappropriate to refer to these periods as holidays but employees are entitled to be paid for those days when they're not working.
What to Wear - Clothes in Dubai
Dress conservatively - for office jobs in Dubai, men should wear a tie (and the usual accoutrements) but a jacket is not so common. Companies will usually make it clear if they have very conservative dress expectations of women, otherwise women can wear much the same as in a comparable job in a western country (unless you have what would be regarded as extreme or unusual tastes in clothing). If working in the public sector, expect to dress more conservatively.
Natural fibers are regarded as more suitable for the hot Dubai climate but remember that inside the office at your job, the air-conditioning can be quite cool.
Arabic is the offical language of Dubai but English is the common denominator amongst the many different nationalities working in jobs in Dubai, at least in the private sector. If there is a language requirement other than English, that should be made clear to you before you accept a job in Dubai. It's useful to be able to speak Arabic but not essential for most jobs. Most expatriates speak very little, and read even less Arabic, even after working in Dubai for many years.
Straight and Split Shifts
For some companies the working day is split in two and employees work something like 0800-1300 and then again from 1600-1900. More and more companies in Dubai are following a straight shift where employees work from 0800-1700 or 0900-1800 or similar.
Minimum working age in Dubai
- 18 years normally - note that students on student residence visas are not permitted to work. There was talk of allowing students to work part-time but this might only apply to Emirati citizens, not expat residents.
- 15 years in certain cases - restricted hours and type of work, and parent or guardian permission is needed.
- Child camel jockey job applications are no longer accepted as the practice has been banned and the children sent home. Or somewhere else at least. Robots are used instead, and not paid a salary. However, they do get free oil and maintenance. If you are a robot, you're probably better off working for Sony.
Maximum age limit for jobs in Dubai - retirement age in the UAE
From September 2005, expatriates can renew their labour cards up to the age of 65 (or 70 for a selected list of professions). The renewal is yearly instead of three-yearly over the age of 60. Previously the age limit was 60, or 65 for the following professions: engineers, doctors, university professors, accountants and auditors, laboratory and electronic equipment technicians, specialists in privately-owned oil companies, specialists in the media, lawyers, translators, and consultants in all fields or other professions agreed on by the undersecretary of labour or the assistant undersecretary.
Free zone areas in Dubai and the UAE might have different rules about the retirement age or maximum working age for employees under a free zone company sponsorship.
Student and part-time jobs in Dubai
In many countries it is common for students at school and university or college to try and find part-time or temporary work. However, for expat students, this is technically not possible since a student visa does not entitle you to work. In practice though, there are odd jobs around that need doing - tutoring is one possibility. Students taking on any such employment should realise they have no legal protection if they have a complaint against their employer (but their employer will be in trouble too), and it is possible to get in trouble with the authorities - a fine and deportation is more likely than a jail sentence if caught.
Students working as a trainee at companies in jobs related to their studies, or doing an internship, are not regarded as employees and so still don't have any rights under the labour law. Even if they get financial compensation (and it would be wise not to draw attention to that).
The Khaleej Times 28 December 2007 reported that a ministerial decision was issued by the Minister of Labour, Dr Al Kaabi, to allow 15-18 year old expat residents to be employed in light work (stacking groceries for example, but not building roads). They could either get a 6 month temporary work permit or permanent labour card, and work part-time or full-time, but not over-time. It is not clear at this stage if expats with student visas can take advantage of this new rule, and probably not relevant since students with student visas are likely to be over 18 and excluded anyway (students under 18 are usually on their parents' sponsorship).
The same report also mentioned an earlier labour ministry decision that would allow students to take up paid employment during summer vacation time, but further details were not given, and MOL website does not clarify this information.
Emirati students can work part-time, full-time, and during holidays since Emirati nationals don't need work permits or residency visas. Subject to any restrictions such as age limits.
Contact the Ministry of Labour
Toll free tel 800665 in the UAE, or see the Labour Department UAE list of contact numbers.
Last update Tuesday 24-Jun-2014