Understanding Maternity Leave in the UAE

by Nick Ndirangu

Understanding Maternity Leave in UAE

Maternity Leave in the UAE is crucial for the health and well-being of mothers and newborns, significantly influencing labor markets and societal norms. Like many countries, the UAE's discussion on maternity leave is becoming more data-driven, showing a deep understanding of its extensive impacts

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Historical Evolution of Maternity Leave Policies

The evolution of maternity leave policies in the UAE mirrors the country's social and economic shifts, balancing support for women's workforce involvement with traditional values. Here's a concise overview:

  • Pre-2000s: Early maternity leave policies in the UAE were relatively basic, offering short leave durations. Public sector workers typically received more generous benefits than their private sector counterparts.
  • 2007 Amendment: The UAE amended its federal law to increase government employees' maternity leave from 45 to 60 days, offering full pay
  • 2016 Dubai Decree: Dubai significantly extended maternity leave for government employees to 3 months, marking a move towards more progressive family welfare policies
  • 2017 Sharjah Directive: Sharjah announced an increase in maternity leave to 3 months for government employees, aligning with Dubai's precedent.
  • 2018 Abu Dhabi Expansion: Abu Dhabi extended maternity leave to 3 months for government workers. Additionally, it introduced 3 days of paternity leave, a pioneering move in the region.
  • 2020 Federal Law: The UAE revised its federal laws, extending maternity leave to 60 days for private sector employees – 45 days at full pay and 15 days at half pay.
  • 2021 Dubai's Progressive Steps: Dubai's new law enables flexible post-maternity work options for mothers, like remote work and adjustable hours
  •  2024 and Latest Developments: The UAE announced labor law reforms to improve work-life balance, adding maternity and paternity leave provisions in the private sector to attract skilled workers

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What is the law for Maternity Leave UAE labour law

Duration of Maternity Leave

In the UAE, maternity leave duration varies by employment sector and specific free zone regulations where applicable. Here's an overview:

  • Private Sector: According to Federal Law No. 8 of 1980, as amended, female employees can take 45 days of maternity leave with full or half pay, based on their service duration
  • Public Sector: In emirates like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, government employees may get up to 90 days of full-pay maternity leave.
  • Free Zones: Regulations can vary, with entities like Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) offering 65 working days of maternity leave.

Pay During Maternity Leave

The pay received during maternity leave also varies across different employment sectors:

  • Private Sector: Women with at least one year of service receive full pay for 45 days, while those with less service receive half pay for the same period.
  • Public Sector and Free Zones: Typically offer more generous benefits. For example, in DIFC, the first 33 days are at full pay, followed by 32 days at half pay for employees with over a year of service. Employees with less service time receive 50% pay for the duration of their leave.

Job Protection and Position Security

UAE labor laws and free zone regulations protect women's job positions and security during maternity leave

  • Non-Discrimination: Employers are prohibited from terminating employment or issuing warnings due to pregnancy or maternity leave.
  • Position Security: After maternity leave, women are usually entitled to return to their original or an equivalent role with the same pay and benefits
  • No Pay Reduction: Maternity leave should not lead to reduced pay, benefits, or rights, except for law-specified salary adjustments during the leave

Legal Provisions for Extension of maternity leave

  • Federal Law No. 8 of 1980: This law, as amended, primarily governs maternity leave in the private sector. It allows for a standard maternity leave of 45 calendar days. While it doesn't explicitly allow for an extension, it does permit additional unpaid leave for illness related to pregnancy or delivery, with a medical certificate
  • Public Sector and Free Zones: Some emirates and free zones offer more generous maternity leave terms than the federal law and may have their own regulations regarding extensions. It's essential to consult the specific laws or HR policies applicable to your employment.

Applying for Additional Leave

  1. Medical Grounds: For an extension due to medical reasons related to childbirth or pregnancy, be ready to provide a medical certificate detailing the need for extra leave
  2. Request in Writing: Submit a formal request or application for the extension of your maternity leave, specifying the duration and reason. It's best to do this well in advance, if possible.
  3. Consult HR: Engage with your HR department to understand any specific documentation requirements or procedures for requesting an extension. They can also inform you about any implications for your employment terms or benefits.

Breastfeeding Rights and Facilities in the Workplace

  • Nursing Breaks: The UAE labour law mandates that female nursing employees are entitled to two additional breaks each day for breastfeeding. These breaks should not exceed half an hour each and are provided for up to 18 months after childbirth. Importantly, these breaks are considered part of the working hours. Hence, they do not result in any reduction in pay.
  • Job Security: The provision of breastfeeding breaks is a right protected by law, meaning that employers must comply without imposing any penalties on the employee for taking these breaks. This right supports job security for nursing mothers, allowing them to return to their roles while still being able to provide for their newborns.

Facilities in the Workplace

  • Dedicated Spaces: While the law mandates breaks for breastfeeding, the specifics regarding the facilities provided in the workplace can vary between employers. Progressive companies often create lactation rooms or private spaces for mothers to comfortably and safely breastfeed or express milk
  • Hygiene and Privacy: Ideal lactation facilities are designed to ensure hygiene and privacy. These spaces are equipped with comfortable seating, electrical outlets for breast pumps, and sometimes refrigeration facilities for storing milk.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Some employers may offer flexible working arrangements to further support nursing mothers. This could include options to work from home, flexible scheduling, or part-time work arrangements, facilitating a balance between work responsibilities and breastfeeding.

Advocacy and Awareness

  • Promoting Awareness: Employers are encouraged to promote awareness about the rights and support available to nursing mothers among all employees. This fosters a supportive workplace culture that respects and upholds these rights.
  • Policy Development: Organizations might craft policies surpassing legal breastfeeding support, offering longer breaks, extended nursing periods beyond 18 months, and improved facilities

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Maternity Leave in Free Zones: Are There Differences?

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), free zones operate under their own set of regulations, which can sometimes differ from federal labour laws. This includes specific rules around employment contracts, work conditions, and benefits, such as maternity leave. Here's how maternity leave in free zones might differ from the broader UAE labor laws:

Law in Free zones on maternity leave:

  • Federal Law vs. Free Zone Regulations: While federal labor laws provide a baseline for employment conditions across the UAE, free zones are granted the autonomy to establish their own labor regulations. This can lead to variations in maternity leave entitlements across different free zones.

Specific Free Zones:

  • Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC): As of the last update, the DIFC has its own employment law, which grants female employees a minimum of 65 working days of maternity leave, provided they have completed at least one year of service. The first 33 days are paid at 100% of the employee's wage, and the subsequent 32 days are paid at 50%. For employees with less than a year of service, maternity leave is granted at 50% pay.
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM): Similar to DIFC, ADGM has its own set of employment regulations. In ADGM, maternity leave is up to 65 business days, with pay similar to DIFC's structure for those with at least a year of service
  • Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) and Other Free Zones: While specific regulations can vary, many free zones follow the federal law closely but have the flexibility to offer more generous terms. Employers in these zones often enhance benefits to attract and retain talent.

Key Considerations:

  • Employer Policies: Within free zones, individual employers may offer maternity leave benefits that exceed the minimum requirements set by the free zone authority or federal law. It's common for companies, especially multinational corporations, to provide more generous leave periods and benefits.
  • Paternity Leave: Some free zones have also started to introduce paternity leave, aligning with broader trends in the UAE towards supporting family-friendly workplace policies.
  • Continuous Updates: Employment laws and regulations in the UAE, including those in free zones, are subject to change. The UAE has been enhancing employee rights and benefits, including maternity and paternity leave, showing its commitment to a supportive, inclusive work environment

Application Process for Maternity Leave

Navigating the application process for maternity leave requires understanding both the legal entitlements and your employer's specific policies. Here's a structured checklist to ensure a smooth transition:

Maternity Leave Preparation Checklist

  •  Read up on the UAE labor laws related to maternity leave.
  •  Check if there are specific maternity leave regulations in your free zone or sector.
  •  Review your employment contract for any maternity leave clauses.

Early Communication

  •  Inform your HR department or manager about your pregnancy once you are comfortable doing so.
  •  Discuss your company's maternity leave policy, including duration and pay.


  •  Obtain a medical certificate confirming your pregnancy and expected delivery date.
  •  Fill out any required maternity leave application forms as per your company's policy.
  •  Prepare a detailed handover plan for your responsibilities during your absence.

Discussing Return to Work

  •  Have a conversation with your employer about your return, including any potential for flexible working arrangements.
  •  Understand your rights regarding returning to the same or a similar job position.

Planning Your Leave

  •  Decide on the start date for your maternity leave, considering medical advice and personal needs.
  •  Consider how you might use annual leave or unpaid leave in conjunction with maternity leave.

Additional Preparations

  •  Inquire about any additional company-specific benefits for new parents (e.g., nursing breaks and childcare facilities).
  •  Stay updated on any changes to maternity leave laws or company policies.

Final Steps Before Leave

  •  Complete any remaining work tasks or projects to the best of your ability.
  •  Ensure all necessary handover documents and instructions are accessible to your team or replacement.
  •  Set up an out-of-office email reply, if applicable, and provide contact information for who will handle your responsibilities in your absence.

Keeping in Touch

  •  If you wish, agree on a 'keeping in touch' plan with your employer for updates during your leave.

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Resources and Support for Mothers in UAE

In the UAE, both government and private entities provide a range of support services for mothers, addressing healthcare, legal rights, and work-life balance, among other needs.

Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP): Offers extensive maternal and child health services, including prenatal and postnatal care, breastfeeding support, and vaccination programs. MOHAP's website and healthcare facilities are valuable resources for medical advice and support.

Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD): Both authorities offer extensive healthcare services for mothers and children, including specialized maternal and child health clinics and workplace breastfeeding support initiatives.

Family Development Foundation: This government organization offers various programs and workshops aimed at supporting families, including mother and child wellness programs.

Private Healthcare Providers: Many private hospitals and clinics across the UAE offer maternity packages, parenting classes, and support groups for new mothers, providing additional choices for care and support.

Legal Aid Services: Several legal firms and consultants provide advice on UAE employment laws, including maternity leave regulations and workplace rights, to help navigate maternity rights

Community Groups and Online Forums

Dubai Moms & Kids: An informal community offering support, advice, and friendship to mothers in Dubai. They organize regular meetups, workshops, and events.

Abu Dhabi Moms Group: Like the Dubai Mothers Group, this Abu Dhabi community offers a support network for mothers to share experiences and organize social events

British Mums Dubai: While initially aimed at British expatriates, this group welcomes all mothers and offers a forum for sharing tips on parenting, local events, and resources in the UAE.

Expat mums and kids Dubai: A comprehensive online resource for expatriate women living in the UAE, including forums on pregnancy, motherhood, and family life in the Gulf region.

Baby & Child UAE: An online magazine and community offering resources, articles, and forums on various topics related to parenting in the UAE.

Conclusion: Maternity Leave in UAE: Future Trends and Predictions

In conclusion, the future of maternity leave in the UAE is on a trajectory towards more inclusive and supportive policies, reflecting a commitment to gender equality, family welfare, and economic competitiveness. Anticipated trends include longer leave durations, enhanced paternity leave benefits, flexible working arrangements, and stronger legal protections for working parents. These developments promise to foster a more family-friendly workplace environment, aligning with global standards and the UAE's vision for a diversified and sustainable economy.

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Paternity and maternity leave. Questions? Answers.

Yes, after the initial period, you may extend your maternity leave using unpaid leave, annual leave, or a combination, subject to your employer's policies.

You may be entitled to additional leave if you can provide a medical certificate from a certified health authority or practitioner in the UAE, detailing the need for further rest.

Currently, the UAE's labor law does not explicitly cover maternity leave for adoption or surrogacy, but some employers may offer it at their discretion.

The UAE Labor Law protects women from dismissal due to pregnancy or maternity leave. You cannot be lawfully terminated for taking your maternity leave

You're still entitled to maternity leave, but with half pay if you have not completed a full year of service by the start of your maternity leave.

Some sectors, like the federal government, specify extended maternity leave for multiple births, offering an additional 30 days on top of the standard 90 days.

Yes, fathers are typically allowed to combine paternity leave with annual or unpaid leave, subject to approval from their employer.

Maternity leave in free zones is generally based on the employee's contract and the specific free zone's regulations, not their nationality. Expatriate women typically have access to the same benefits as their Emirati counterparts within the same employment context

Part-time workers’ maternity and paternity leave benefits are typically prorated based on their working hours, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria set forth by their employer and the governing labor laws.