The Labour Law of the UAE governs employer / employee relations in aspects such as hours of work, leave, termination, restrictions on the employment of juveniles and women , wages, safety and protection of employees, medical and social benefits and repatriation. The law applies to both foreign and local staff and employees working in the UAE with a few exceptions outlined in the law.
If the employee is a UAE national, the employment contract may be entered into any time. For an expatriate employee however, to be employed in the UAE the employer must seek approval by the Ministry of Labour before the employee enters the UAE. In addition, a security may be required by some employers such as a bank guarantee for end of services benefits and employee repatriation costs.
The law in general is protective of employees and in the case of conflicting contractual provisions agreed under another jurisdiction, it overrides them unless these benefit the employee.
Formation of trade unions is not allowed. In the case of a dispute between the employer and employee the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs intervenes to resolve matters. A decision by the Ministry can be appealed and the case can be taken to court. Strikes and public demonstrations are also illegal.
Business owners are not considered employees, foreign partners are sponsored as investors rather than employees by the entity they partner with (local partner, service agent, free zone). If the investor’s name is on the trade license he deals directly with immigration rather than through the Labour Office. If, in addition to being partner, however he is also an employee, he will be considered as an employee for the work he is doing for the company.
The maximum working hours are forty eight per week or 8 per day. This may be increased for employees in trades, cafeterias, hotels and guards. Employees in executive or administration positions may be expected to work long hours without overtime pay. Break time is not included when calculating working hours and employees must not work for more than five consecutive hours without a break except for the case of jobs where continued attendance is required. The terms for these are specified by the Ministry.
A copy of the labour law can be found here: http://www.mol.gov.ae/newcontrolpanel2010/Attachments/21062012/labour%20law%20no.8%20year%201980.pdf