Have you just found out you are having a baby? Congratulations! If you’re a working professional, one of the first questions that may come to mind is: “How long will my maternity or paternity leave last?”

Working mothers need a proper break from their professional activities to welcome a new baby into the family. The duration of maternity leave is guaranteed by UAE law but you may still have questions. How long is the holiday? Who can receive it? How much does the mother earn? What to do to have the right?

Here’s what the law says about maternity and paternity leave for private sector employees.

What is Maternity Leave?

Maternity leave is a period of time given to a woman who is right about to have a baby or has just had a baby to stay away from work to reconnect with the birth and bond with the new baby.

In the United Arab Emirates, maternity leave for women working in the private sector is regulated by Federal Law No. 08/1980 (UAE Labor Law).

For women working in the public sector, this varies from federal workers to state workers from each emirate.

Who Can Apply For Maternity Leave?

Every expectant mother-employee is entitled to maternity leave. It does not matter whether she works in the private or public sector or in a company based in a free zone or on the mainland.

Employment contracts that have maternity leave are void once the regulation for the maternity leave period is granted by federal law and must be respected in all sectors of the UAE.

When Does Maternity Leave Start?

The leave commences as soon as the employee resumes her work and can be before or after the birth.

Then, for a period of 4 months from the day the employee resumes work, she is entitled to 2 hours of reduced working time to breastfeed the child at the beginning or end of the working day.

Such breaks are fully paid for.

Maternity leave cannot be combined with leave without pay.

How Much Is Maternity Leave?

The expectant mother is entitled to a gross salary during her absence. This means a basic salary plus all allowances described in her employment contract.

However, working hours must be taken into account to accurately determine whether this payment will be made in full or half.

According to the law, if the expectant mother has worked for at least one year before requesting maternity leave, she is entitled to her full payment.

However, if the employee has worked for less than one year at the request of leave, the payment will be only half of the salary.

Is It Possible To Extend This Time?

According to the law, an extension of up to 100 consecutive days can be requested at the end of maternity leave.

However, it is unpaid leave, and it must be proven that the absence is due to a real medical condition.

How Does The Maternal Leave Work For Women In The Public Sector?

For federal employees, if the mother or expectant employee is a federal employee, the law grants 90 days of overall maternity leave with full pay upon return to work with 2 hours per day for breastfeeding.

How Many Days Is Paternity Leave For The Private Sector In The UAE?

Prior to the adoption of the decree for fathers in the private sector, UAE labour law did not specify any period of paternity leave. However, companies tended to follow public service guidelines, even though it is not mandatory.

Under the newly adopted decree, male employees in the UAE’s private sector companies are entitled to five working days of paid parental leave. But take note:

  • These five days must be used up within the first six initial months after the birth of the child.
  • Regular weekend breaks are not included in the holiday.

Women that are employed in the private sector are already entitled to 45 days of fully paid maternity leave if they have served their company for at least a year.

Under DIFC law, fathers are entitled to 5 days of paternity leave if the employee has been employed for at least 12 months under DIFC before they leave and notifies the employer of the pregnancy at least eight weeks before the birth.

Paternity leave also applies to the adoption of children under the age of 5 and must be taken for the month of birth/adoption.

A public holiday that falls within the period of paternity leave is considered an extension of the leave period.

Do Pregnant Women Or Those Returning From Maternity Leave Have Job Security?

No, being pregnant alone is not a sufficient reason for dismissal. However, an employee may be dismissed during pregnancy.

It is essential to note that if the dismissal of the employee occurs without a valid and justifiable reason, the worker can rightfully file a claim in the UAE Labor Court.

The court’s rule may vary from reinstatement and, if that is not possible, a settlement of reasonable compensation based on your gross salary, plus gratuities and termination benefits.

Your exact job position is also not guaranteed during maternity leave.

During the vacation, the employer deciding to move the employee to another position is entirely legal as long as there is no reduction in salary.

Termination of the employment contract while the woman is on maternity leave, is illegal, and the mother can bring a claim to the labour court against the employer for damages.

Common Questions About The New Parental Leave Laws

Does The New Parental/Paternity Leave Apply To Private-Sector Employees?

Yes. This is the first time that private sector employees will be granted parental leave.

Does The New Parental Leave Apply To Women?

The new parental leave applies to both female employees and female non-employees.

Who Cannot Take Parental Leave In The UAE?

If you are a school or university student, intern, self-employed or unemployed, you cannot apply for parental leave.

How Many Days Is Parental Leave?

The UAE private sector has been granted paid paternity leave after His Royal Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is the President of the UAE, approved an amendment to the UAE Labor Law in August 2020.

This change in August 2020 made the UAE become the first Arab country to provide paid paternity leave to the private sector.

In order to harmonize employment benefits in the public and private sectors and treat male and female employees equally with regard to parental leave, Federal Law No. (6) of 2020 (hereinafter referred to as the “Decree”) introduced amendments to the UAE Labor Law No. (8). ) of 1980 (Labor Act), as follows:

The decree inserted a new article 74 into the Labor Code, which entitles all employees (men and women) in the private sector to five days of paid parental leave within six months of the birth of a child. An employee’s routine weekend leave would not count towards vacation.

Article 74 does not affect female employees’ rights to maternity leave under Article 30 of the Labor Code, and it appears that female employees are entitled to Article 74 rights immediately upon employment.

Private sector employees, both men and women, get a unique advantage under this decree to be physically present for their family role during this crucial period of caring for their children.

The new parental leave entitlement is applicable to both men and women working in the private sector in the UAE, except those working in the Dubai International Financial Center or the Abu Dhabi Global Market (which are two separate free zones that are independent of the employment laws and regulations of the rest of the UAE).

This is meant to support the UAE’s international position, which is based on humanitarian considerations, and will significantly support the UAE’s Emiratisation efforts as it will make the private sector more attractive to highly skilled national employees who will be more motivated to join it.

The move also strengthens the UAE’s position on gender balance and reinforces its efforts to create a competitive model that fosters a working environment in the private sector.

Previously, the UAE did not particularly require private sector companies to provide male employees with any parental or paternity leave, although some companies included a discretionary allowance.

Previously, male government employees were entitled to only three days of paid paternity leave.

How Is Parental Leave Calculated?

Parental/paternal leave is calculated on working days, not on calendar days, which according to the decree, must be used up within six months of the birth of the child.

Can A Woman Add Parental Leave To Her Maternity Leave?

Yes, upon agreement and acceptance between the employee and his employer.

How Long Do You Have To Work For The Company To Get The Benefit Of Parental Leave?

As this is a positive development and duly recognizes the importance of both men and women spending time with their newborns as such, “There are no special requirements for the new entitlement to parental leave, but it can only be taken up to six months of age of the child.

Are Parents Required To Provide Any Proof In Order To Take Parental Leave?

“There is no specific legal requirement for an employee to produce these types of documents to demonstrate eligibility; however, it is at the discretion of the company to establish its own internal protocols or requirements for the employee to take advantage of the benefit.”

Can Parental Leave Be Taken In Addition To The 100 Days Of Unpaid Sick Leave That A New Mother In The UAE Can Take If Needed?

Yes, the new parental leave benefit is completely separate from the days of unpaid sick leave that an employee may be entitled to under UAE labour law.

Notes to be aware of:

  • Parental leave/paternity leave is granted for the purpose of caring for a child.
  • According to the current notification, the child must be born in the United Arab Emirates.
  • In the event that your child is born outdoors and you do not have physical contact with the baby, this may be subject to interpretation.
  • The five days of parental leave is also limited to only five working days, and it would remain the exact same nonetheless of the number of children (twins or multiples).

Do Parents For Twins Or Multiples Receive Extra Days For Parental Leave?

No, the total number of holidays is limited to five working days, even in case of multiple births.

Does Breastfeeding Affect My Parental Leave?

In addition to the 45-day maternity leave that is granted, mothers who both work and breastfeed their newborn for the first 18 months of their child’s life are legally entitled to two half-hour breastfeeding breaks during working hours—any reduction in salary in this period is illegal.

Can sick leave be used simultaneously with maternity leave?

By law, every employee has the right to sick leave, which does not exceed 90 days a year.

Any illness related to pregnancy, once the legal period applies to the medical certificate provided. The payment for this additional leave is calculated according to Article 83 of the Labor Code:

  • First 15 days: with full payment.
  • Next 30 days: with half pay.
  • Any other period: no reward.

How Does It Work For Women In Different Parts Of The UAE? 

For Federal Employees:

If the mother or expectant is a federal employee, the law grants 90 days of maternity leave with full salary payment after returning to her work activities with 2 hours daily for breastfeeding.

Abu Dhabi

Workers are entitled to three months of paid maternity leave in full. Upon return, she is entitled to two hours off daily in the first year after delivery to breastfeed her child.

Dubai 

Maternity leaves in Dubai grant female employees 90 days of maternity leave starting from the delivery date. She may also apply for maternity leave up to 30 days prior to the expected delivery date. And 2 hours to nurse her child when she resumes her work activities.

Annual leave and unpaid leave can be added to maternity leave, taking the maximum total number of days to 120. 

When a female employee gives birth to a baby with special needs, she will be granted childcare leave for the period from the expiry date of the maternity leave to the date on which her baby completes one year of age.

Sharjah 

Since 2016, the total period of maternity leave in the Sharjah Government is 120 days, 90 days of fully paid leave and 30 days of unpaid leave.

The decree permitted adding annual leave to the maternity leave and granted new mothers two hours to nurse their child for an additional six months.

Ras Al Khaimah

In 2016, the Ras Al Khaimah Government extended the maternity leave to 90 days of paid leave, and the nursing period is one whole year from the birth of the baby.

The DIFC maternity leave 

Employees working in DIFC have 65 (sixty-five) days of maternity leave as per article 36 of the DIFC Employment Law.

The payment will be regulated by the time of service, being the mother is entitled to full payment once she worked at least 12 months prior to the left demand.

The payment will be made in full for the first 33 days and 50% for the additional 32 days. 

The DIFC also states the importance of the pregnancy notification by the expectant mother to the employer about the pregnancy, which must be a minimum of 8 (eight) weeks prior to the childbirth, followed by a medical report.

The notification of the beginning of maternity leave must occur a minimum of 21 days in advance.

Under the DIFC law, the adoption of a child is also comprised of the maternity leave institute as long as the adopted child is less than five years old. All the other requirements above mentioned will count as the day of the adoption.

The Annual leave can be consecutive to the maternity leave period.

The Public holiday that falls into the maternity leave period is considered an extension of the maternity leave period.

The mother working under the DIFC law is granted the return to work at the same conditions, same position, and employment terms prior to leaving.

Conclusion 

Previously, UAE labour law did not require private sector companies to provide male employees with any type of paternity leave, although some employers in the region, particularly those with global operations, chose to offer this benefit as part of their internal company policies.

Maternity leave in Dubai was introduced to support the UAE’s move towards greater gender balance and to encourage talented mothers to work.

Similarly, the new paternity leave in UAE law is seen by many as a significant step towards gender equality and promoting family cohesion

Understanding the parental leave policies in the UAE can provide you with the precious time you need to welcome a new life into your family.

Remember, it’s your right to make the most of this time, so be informed, be proactive, and embrace the beautiful beginnings that parental leave can offer in the UAE.