On August 25, UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued Federal Law No. 06 of 2020 which mandated equal pay for women in the private sector. The landmark legislation, which was first approved by the UAE Cabinet in 2018, came into effect in the country on 25 September.
Remarking on the new law, Sheik Khalifa said: “Female employees shall receive wages equal to that of males if they perform the same work, or another of equal value. The procedures, controls and standards necessary for evaluating work of equal value will be set under a decision to be issued by the Cabinet, based on a proposal from the Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation.”
The 2020 decree amends Article 32 of Federal Law No. 08 of 1980, with the objective of increasing entry of female workers into the UAE’s private sector businesses.
President of the UAE’s Gender Balance Council, Sheika Manal bint Mohamed, has hailed the equal pay law as a bold step forward for the country’s presence on the world stage: “Congratulations to all the women working in the UAE private sector. This step will undoubtedly boost the social inclusivity of women, support their role in national development, and advance the UAE’s status on the world’s Gender Equality Index.”
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, highlighted the benefits for equality and justice within the UAE, calling the decree a "new positive step in the process of empowering women in the Emirates". Similarly, Federal National Council Member, Sara Mohammed Falaknaz, pointed out the UAE’s historic efforts to deliver gender equality to its citizens: "Women empowerment is among the top priorities for the UAE government. The UAE leaders and Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Mother of the Nation, have worked relentlessly to ensure that women are equal to men in all aspects. As HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said, we don't empower women, we empower society by women."
Industry observers from inside and outside the UAE have also reacted positively, praising the significance of the equal pay law not just for the country but for the wider region. Expat workers within the country have pointed out that pay parity will attract international female talent to live and work in the UAE, along with more families, helping to unlock its innovative potential and boosting its competitiveness on the world stage.
A trend towards gender equality
The UAE has a strong track record of promoting gender equality in the region. In 2019, the country jumped 23 ranks in the United Nations’ Gender Equality Index to rank 26th globally and 1st in the Arab world. Previous efforts from the UAE to promote gender equality include the launch of Emirati Women’s Day in 2015, and a decree from President Sheikh Khalifa to ensure that half of the UAE’s 40-seat Federal National Council was made up by women.
Businesses in the UAE should ensure that their payroll systems are adjusted to reflect any necessary changes to the pay of their female employees going forward.
For more information on the UAE’s payroll process, or its tax and social security system, explore activpayroll’s Global Insight Guide to the UAE.