In a groundbreaking move, the United Arab Emirates has taken a significant step to protect women in the workplace. The introduction of strict laws and penalties aims to combat harassment and create a safer and more comfortable working environment for female employees.
Under Federal Decree Law No. 33 of 2021 and Cabinet Resolution No. 1 of 2022, employers in the UAE are now legally obligated to provide a safe and appropriate working environment for their employees, as stipulated in Article 13(13) of the Employment Law. This includes protection from any form of harassment.
The new regulations explicitly prohibit sexual harassment, bullying, or any verbal, physical, or mental violence against employees by their employers, managers, or co-workers. According to Article 14(2) of the Employment Law and Article 413 of the UAE Penal Law, individuals found guilty of sexual harassment can face severe penalties, including a minimum jail sentence of one year and a fine of at least Dh10,000.
What constitutes sexual harassment under these laws? It includes any persistent behavior aimed at annoying the victim through actions, words, or signs, with the intention of satisfying the perpetrator’s or others’ sexual desires, as per Article 413.
For women facing uncomfortable situations like unwarranted proximity from male colleagues, there are clear steps to address the issue without causing unnecessary disruption:
- Communication: Initially, you can personally inform the colleague to maintain appropriate boundaries and express your discomfort with their behavior. Make them aware of the seriousness of their actions, emphasizing that it is considered a criminal offense in the UAE.
- Employer Complaint: If the problem persists, you should report the issue to your employer, requesting that they issue a warning or a show-cause letter to the offending colleague. Employers are obligated to investigate such complaints thoroughly.
- Internal Investigation: Your employer should conduct an internal investigation based on your complaint, ensuring a written record of the process. If the investigation reveals inappropriate behavior, your employer may take disciplinary actions, including termination, without notice, in accordance with Article 44(7) of the Employment Law.
- Criminal Complaint: If the issue persists despite your employer’s intervention, you have the right to file a criminal complaint with the Dubai Police. Article 411, Article 412(1), and Article 413 of the UAE Penal Law are the relevant provisions to reference in such cases.
These comprehensive legal measures demonstrate the UAE’s commitment to creating a safe and respectful working environment for all employees, particularly women. By understanding these laws and the available recourse, women can assert their rights and stand against workplace harassment with confidence.
Author: Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates, a prominent legal firm specializing in employment law