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Enforcing special measures in the wake of COVID-19

March, 22,2020

By Raka Roy

As we increasingly receive requests from UAE based businesses on their obligations in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we have listed some of the most frequently asked questions that can help you take measures to protect your employees and limit the spread of the virus.

1. Which sectors are impacted by business closures?

On Sunday 15 and Monday 16 March, Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) announced that several businesses involving public gatherings should cease activity until the end of March. By directive of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA), public and tourist sites are closed, and all live events and hospitality gatherings have ceased as directed by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
The hospitality sector has borne the brunt as the authorities have moved to close almost all outdoor activities across the Emirates in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

 Across the Emirates, the following should cease their activities and services with immediate effect until the end of March:

  • Cinemas
  • Theme parks
  •  Amusement games and electronic game centres
  •  Bodybuilding and fitness gyms
  •  Spring camps
  •  Bars, including those located inside restaurants
  •  Shisha lounges and cafés
  •  Beaches and other tourist destinations

 The Dubai Health Authorities have updated a detailed informatory webpage which businesses are invited to consult regularly for updates and directives. Click here to access the page: https://www.dha.gov.ae/Covid19/Pages/home.aspx  

2. Business continuity: Working from home, remote working and flexible working policies – what are the employer’s obligations?

 The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE) and the DED have not issued any specific circulars for employers under the present situation: it is solely the employer’s decision to implement remote working policies for part or all of their employees.
When employers encourage their staff to work from locations different to the usual workplace (i.e. employee’ homes or recovery sites), it is the employer’s obligation to provide employees with the materials they require (i.e. laptops) to enable staff to complete their work.

3. How to manage leave?

  • Annual leave requests from employees should be considered as usual. 
  • In the UAE, employers can impose a period of paid annual leave to employees. The length should take into account the annual leave entitlement of each employee. 
  • If an employee is unable to resume work at the end of its annual leave and has exhausted their annual leave entitlement, it is the employer’s decision to impose un-paid leave to their employee, until they are able to resume work. 
  • Unpaid leave should be enforced following the existing contractual conditions and the UAE labour law requirements. 
4. Work travels and client facing activities: should all activities been postponed? What measures should be taken in the workplace?

All non-essential foreign travel has been discouraged by the UAE authorities, and several destinations are on the blacklist of UAE and international airlines.
From March 19, the UAE have temporarily suspended the issuance of visas into the country, with the exception of those with diplomatic passports.  Residents outside of the country will no longer be permitted entry for a period of two weeks from March 19. UAE citizens are banned from travelling abroad and citizens returning to the UAE will experience health checks on arrival, and a mandatory 14 days of quarantine.

While there are no official guidelines regarding work travels and client meetings, it is in the employer’s best interest to apply precautionary measures where they deem necessary. The Municipality has issued circulars which form as guidelines on basic health & safety regulations to be followed at the workplace and other public places. Please see enclosed link: https://www.dm.gov.ae/en/Business/HealthAndPublicSafety/Pages/default.aspx

5. Should we report preventive measures to the local authorities?

The UAE Authorities have not issued any official circulars or statements requesting for business entities to report any measures to the authorities. While businesses are adopting preventive measures, they should comply to the current labour and health & safety regulations in place.

6. What to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has distributed awareness materials for its residents to understand and prevent from contracting COVID-19 :
https://www.mohap.gov.ae/en/AwarenessCenter/Pages/COVID19-EAMA.aspx https://www.mohap.gov.ae/en/AwarenessCenter/Pages/COVID-19.aspx/

Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre is answering questions and updating residents about the latest news on coronavirus in the country through messages on WhatsApp. The number is 056 231 2171. For more information on the virus, residents can also contact Estijaba Service on 8001717, Dubai Health Authority on 800342, or the Ministry of Health and Prevention on 80011111.