UAE: Accommodate People with Disabilities in the Workplace


By Anna Marshall © Al Tamimi & Company June 14, 2019
UAE: Accommodate People with Disabilities in the Workplace

​Employers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should familiarize themselves with a resolution passed last year by the UAE Federal Cabinet requiring accommodations for individuals with disabilities in the workplace. The overall purpose of the resolution is to assist people with disabilities to enter and remain in the workforce and to engage in active and productive employment on an equal basis with their colleagues, notwithstanding their disabilities. The resolution applies to governmental entities, private-sector employers and nonprofit organizations.

For the purpose of the resolution, individuals are considered to be "people of determination" if they have a permanent or temporary disability or deficiency in their physical, sensory, mental, communicative, educational or psychological abilities that adversely affects their ability to perform their work compared to other people without a disability. For the purpose of this article such individuals are referred to as "people with disabilities."

Nondiscrimination Against People with Disabilities

A key underlying principle of the resolution is that people with disabilities should be protected against discrimination. The resolution defines discrimination as any distinction, exclusion or restriction based on a person's disability with the aim or effect of weakening, impairing or nullifying the equal recognition, enjoyment or exercise of any of the rights granted under UAE legislation.

The protection against discrimination applies from the outset, even before a candidate joins a new employer. During the recruitment and selection process, employers cannot discriminate against people with disabilities and must make reasonable accommodations for them during job interviews and candidate assessments. When advertising job vacancies, employers must not contain any discriminatory language and must publish the advertisements in multiple forums and mediums to ensure they are widely accessible.

If a person with a disability is successful in the recruitment process and is offered the role, he or she should not be discriminated against with respect to their salary or benefits and accordingly the individual should be offered the same salary and employment benefits as a nondisabled person would be offered for the same role with that employer. This reflects an overarching aim of the resolution to ensure equality—including in terms of salary and employment benefits—for people with disabilities compared to their colleagues without disabilities.

Once a person with a disability has joined an organization, the employer has a continuing obligation to provide a suitable work environment for that person and to make any necessary accommodations to ensure he or she can perform their work efficiently and safely. In considering what constitutes a reasonable workplace accommodation for a person with a disability, various factors are relevant, including the size and resources of the employing entity, the nature and circumstances of the work environment, and the nature and degree of the individual's disability.

In terms of the physical work environment, employers are required to adapt and update workplace equipment and devices as required, and to ensure that the premises where the individual works are appropriate including entrances, internal areas and exits from the building, including in emergency situations. For example, an individual in a wheelchair is likely to require ramp access, instead of stairs, and some doorways, corridors or other spaces within the workplace may need to be widened to accommodate a wheelchair. The employer should also provide facilities and assistance to enable people with disabilities to attend and participate in conferences, meetings, events and training on an equal basis with their peers. This reflects an underlying aim of the resolution to ensure equality of opportunities for people with disabilities compared to their colleagues.

An employer's responsibility is not limited to adjusting the physical workspace to accommodate a person's disability. Employers must also give due consideration to a person's disability when considering their work hours and what flexibility may be appropriate in this regard, particularly if their disability makes it difficult for the worker to follow the employer's normal working days and times.

Further, employers must factor in the person's disability when discussing and setting their performance targets and subsequently assessing their performance, including any impact this may have on their eligibility for a promotion, bonus payment or salary increment. Performance assessments should be used as a way to identify and address any difficulties being faced by the person in performing his or her job to the best of the individual's abilities. Appropriate training, rehabilitation and development programs should be implemented to help people with disabilities to reach their full potential in the workplace.

Termination of Employment

The resolution also addresses the termination of employment for people with disabilities and specifically states that such individuals are "entitled to maintain their jobs" even if their disabilities worsen over time, so long as they are able to perform their work. Further, a person with a disability should not have his or her employment terminated due to their disability, unless a competent medical committee determines the person is no longer able to work, or if the individual reaches retirement age. In cases where the individual's health condition or disability requires him or her to take time off work, the employer should preserve that person's job and assist him or her to rejoin the workplace when it is appropriate for that individual to do so.

Oversight of the Resolution

The Ministry of Community Development is responsible for coordinating with other government departments to ensure that the resolution is effectively implemented in practice. To this end, employers also have an obligation to cooperate with the Ministry to enable it to create a record of people with disabilities and their training qualification, skills and professional history.

We recommend that employers also keep clear internal records of what adjustments and accommodations they have made to accommodate people with disabilities within their organizations, so that this information can be made available to the Ministry or other authorities if required in order to demonstrate compliance with the resolution.

The resolution is an important step in ensuring that people with disabilities can participate fairly and effectively in the labor market, and all public- and private-sector employers should comply with the resolution—and its underlying principles of equity and nondiscrimination—at all stages of the employment relationship.

Anna Marshall is an attorney with Al Tamimi & Company in Dubai, UAE. © 2019 Al Tamimi & Company. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission of Lexology.


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