Covid-19: Returning to work in the UAE

Now that time has passed since the outbreak of Covid-19, things are gradually getting back to normal, or, to put it in better words, the world started to get used to the “new normal”.

Since the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that lockdown was lifted, businesses are exploring how their employees will return to work and what guidelines and steps to follow to prevent the spread of the virus in offices as much as possible.

In this article, we are going to shed the light on (I) the general safety and ethics measures that workers in the UAE should adopt, and the (II) impact of the pandemic on employment agreements after returning to work in the UAE.

  • General Safety and Ethics Measures to Adopt:

When getting back to the office:

The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office and, many firms and offices implemented certain guidelines to follow when returning to the office after more than 10 weeks of work from home.

These guidelines include:

  • Limiting physical attendance to 30%.
  • Social distancing – employees should stay at least 2 meters apart.
  • Wearing face masks.
  • Employees that can work from their offices should be between the ages of 18 and 55 years old.
  • Pregnant women and employees that suffer from chronic diseases or live with people above 60 years old are not allowed to work in the office.
  • Videoconferencing should be used for meetings.
  • Glass barriers should be installed to separate employees.

Employees who can conduct their work remotely are encouraged to work from home. Moreover, parent employees can work from home as long as the schools are still closed.

  • When Working from Home (WFH):

While only 30% of employees can work from the office, the rest should be WFH.

At home too, every employee should have the morals and discipline to abide by certain rules, even if there is no one supervising them.

WFH employees should be always committed to getting their job done at the specified time and be reachable during working hours to take calls with their superiors, colleagues, and clients as if they were in office.

WFH has also its benefits for employers who can identify the dedicated and disciplined employees capable of taking responsibility.

  • Impact of the pandemic on employment agreements

As a general rule and under normal circumstances, an employment agreement should govern the relationship between an employer and his/her employee whatever happens. Anything which contradicts the terms of the employment agreement is considered illegal.

With the unexpected burst of the Covid-19 pandemic, most companies in the UAE experienced financial hardship and were not able to operate properly.  To keep their businesses running, employers are seeking new plans and arrangements with their employees which include salary cuts and mandatory unpaid leave.

Courts established that salary cuts can be a solution to enable businesses to overcome their losses, as long as these salary cuts are temporary. Employers cannot cut salaries for a permanent time, otherwise they would be in breach. At the same time, employees should act in good faith and cooperate with their employers to the extent that the measures adopted by the business are reasonable.


The pandemic led to a major change of habits in the workplace environment and employers are figuring out new ways to cope with this change and move forward. The presumption that work can only be done on the company’s premises is gradually fading.  If you want to make sure your business remains compliant with the new safety measures and guidelines, you can book a consultation with a lawyer on our website