Equality is a very important issue in all spheres of life of the contemporary society. The problems and discussions of equality have penetrated the sphere of labour decades ago. However, regardless of various social movements and public efforts, labour legislation and its administration have multiple gaps that become the ground for labour inequality in various countries. Today, such cases are viewed as the violations of human rights, as well as the work ethics that is one of the most important values in the world of nowadays.
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Workplaces where the work ethics is not appreciated and where the rights of the employees are violated on the regular basis are known for low job satisfaction, high rates of turnover, and decreased productivity. In the world of business, the respectable and dignified treatment of the employees is the key to success as they represent the core of each business and its main moving force.
This paper attempts to address the question of labour equality in terms of the employees’ ability to get sick leaves when requested. The report is based on the data collected from various sources such as the literature found on the internet (in books, articles, websites) and the information acquired through a survey conducted at an actual workplace among the average employees. The paper relies on the articles from the Labour Laws of the United Arab Emirates, as well as those of the other countries of the world (inside and outside of the Gulf region).
The actual laws and regulations concerning the provision of sick leaves to the employees in the UAE will be compared to the evidential data of the realities in the modern workplaces. Namely, the paper will present the evaluation of the rules concerning sick leave provision in the organisation called Scholarship Office (SCO) located in Abu Dhabi based on the qualitative data collected by means of a questionnaire handed out to several employees.
UAE Labour Law
All the issues concerning labour in the United Arab Emirates are covered by the Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 and its amendments. The individuals governed by the labour law are all the workers employed in the UAE regardless of their origin (native employees and expatriate workers). Article 3 of the Law states that the individuals to whom it does not apply include the workers of Federal Government, armed forces such as police and security, workers of the sphere of agriculture, and domestic servants employed in the private residences (UAE Labour Law, 1980).
Application of the Law
The Law applies to all the aspects of interactions between the employees and their employers. The spheres of labour relationships covered by the Law include the policies concerning employment (the contracts and their termination, regulation as to the employment of minors and females, the length of work shifts, the maintenance of documentation and records, sizes of wages, social and medical care, the protection of the employees’ and the employers’ rights and freedoms, fines and benefits, to name a few (UAE Labour Law, n. d.).
Administration of the Law
The Law is administered by the Ministry that is the main and the first organ to deal with all the labour matters. After the Ministry, the cases may be directed to the courts of the United Arab Emirates (UAE Labor Law, n. d.).
Statement in the UAE Law concerning the Matters of Sick Leaves for the Employees
Article 77 specifies: “The annual leave period is deemed to include such holidays as prescribed by law or as agreed to, and any other periods of sickness, occurred during this leave and is considered as part thereof” (UAE Labour Law, 1980, p. 22).
In other words, the annual leave period is covered by the Law for all the employees to whom it applies. Article 82 states: “If the employee falls sick for reasons other than labour injury he must report his illness within a period of two days at most and the employer must take necessary measures having him medically checked up to ascertain illness” (UAE Labour Law, 1980, p. 23). The employees on probation are not provided a paid sick leave, according to the Law. A sick leave as long as 90 days (continuous or intermittent) is administered for a worker who has completed the probation period and then continued being employed for a period of 3 months. The pay for the sick leave is provided following this regulation:
- The first fifteen days with full pay.
- The next thirty days, with half pay.
- The subsequent period, without pay” (UAE Labour Law, 1980, p. 24).
Besides, in cases when the leave requested by the employee is the result of their misbehaviour (such as excessive drinking or drug abuse), the payment is not administered. Moreover, the UAE Labour Law (1980) specifies that in case if in the end of a sick leave of this type, an employee fails to go back to work, the employer has right to terminate the employment. In any other cases, the employers are not allowed to fire the workers during their leave. If the worker decides to terminate their own employment during the period of the first 45 days of paid leave, they are still entitled to the rest of the pay if their reason for resignation is confirmed as a valid by a Government Medical Officer.
The Labour Law of the UAE outlines and mentions all the issues concerning the provision of sick leaves to the employees. The rules and regulations in the Law are fair and just. However, there is evidence of violations of these policies by the employers that resulted in the creation of unfair and unequal working conditions for the employees. This section will explore some of them.
The article by Abu-Shaaban (2015) compares the theoretical and practical reflections of the labour law in the field of construction. The author compares the rules and regulations that are outlined for the employees and the employers in such countries as Jordan, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, and the UAE. The author finds that many workers do not get paid leaves at all; in fact, some are unaware of the leave regulations in their companies. The failure to communicate and raise awareness among the employees about their rights and freedoms is one of the major errors made by the employers in the UAE, and sometimes it is made deliberately in order to be able to alter the rules and regulations for the employees who have little knowledge of their rights and freedoms under the Labour Law.
The study by the Gulf Research Centre and Bina Fernandez (2014) focuses on the same issue of the rights for the workers in the Gulf region pointing out what kind of frameworks are created to ensure the rights of the workers and raise their awareness. The work by Al-Adawi (2012) outlines the regulations for the sick leave certificates that include various descriptions for the equitable and fair attestation, authorisation and reporting of sick leaves.
The form for the sick leave used for the attestation by the Health Authority is standard and includes basic patient information such as their address and name, the details about their health condition and the reason for the leave, as well as some information about their escort (Health Authority – Abu Dhabi, n. d.). For the protection of the employees’ rights, Health Authority of Abu Dhabi has established a website dedicated to the employees on sick leave.
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The system called e-Sick leave is an online application that “supports the issuance and attestation by the medical committees of sick leave certificates issued by HAAD licensed physicians practicing in Abu Dhabi” (Health Authority, 2016). Using the e-Sick leave system, the practicing physicians log in on the website with the help of the secure password provided by the Health Authority and fill in the sick leave forms keeping the patient data private. In terms of equality in the workplace, such service is quite important as it allows the employees to get their sick leaves attested easier and faster and makes the whole system more optimised and accessible.
Scholarship Office of Abu Dhabi
The objective of this paper is not only to introduce the theory of the sick leave provision in the UAE and its laws concerning the employees’ and employers’ rights and duties as to the matter. The work also focuses on the practical side of the question; namely, on how the situation concerning sick leave provision is at actual workplaces such as Scholarship Office of Abu Dhabi.
The goal of the Scholarship Office is to locate and monitor of the best students in the UAE for the further placement in the abroad scholarship programs (SCO, n. d.). The organisation was founded in 1999, and since then it has expanded hiring more employees from the UAE and foreign countries. Just like at any workplace, the question of equality is important for the SCO and its employees.
A brief research was conducted in order to investigate the situation concerning sick leave provision at the Scholarship Office. The purpose of the research was to collect qualitative data in reference to the current employees’ awareness of the organisation’s policies as to the sick leaves, the level of their satisfaction with the present environment, and its equality.
SCO’s Policy as to Sick Leaves
Scholarship Office employee handbook outlines the rules that are in place in the organisation in terms of the provision of sick leaves to the workers. Overall, the rules are very brief and include only three points:
- If an employee falls sick and requires sick leave, he should notify his Line Manager within 48 hours of becoming sick, if not preventive by a forced situation, and give an estimation of how long he will be absent from work due to his sickness. Failure to do so without forced situation will lead to deducting the same days from the employee annual leave.
- The sick employee is required, upon return from Sick Leave, to fill automated Sick Leave Form and a medical certificate to HR Department.
- Sick Leave cannot be carried forward” (SEHA, 2014, p. 26).
The regulations as to the provision of the other types of leaves (educational, seasonal, annual, maternity and paternity, Haj, and public holidays) are described in separate sections and were not taken into consideration for the present research.
The research relied on qualitative data collected with the help of a questionnaire. Overall, it contained five questions and was handed out to the employees of the SCO.
The following are the questions distributed to the respondents in my organisation for the purpose of data collection for the qualitative research designed to evaluate how the rights of the workers concerning sick leaves are preserved.
- Can you name your organisation’s rules as to providing sick leaves to the employees?
- Have you ever requested a sick leave?
- If yes, were your demands met equitably?
- Are you aware of any cases of inequality in reference to sick leave provision in this organisation? Do you know any people (without naming them) who were treated unfairly in this reference? (Rejected sick leaves, no paid leave provided, etc.)
- (In case if the respondent expressed dissatisfaction with the regulations as to sick leaves): do you feel something could be done to change the current inequality?
The questions were designed specifically to identify the areas of problem in the organisation and the workers’ attitude towards the current policies and their administration.
Participants and Confidentiality Issues
The questionnaire was printed out, and its copies were handed out to seven employees; of whom four returned the questionnaire with the answers. Some of the candidates refused to take part in the research as soon as they read the questions. It is possible that such reaction was caused by their suspicion of the authorities’ involvement in the investigation and unwillingness to report their dissatisfaction due to the fear for their security as the employees. However, this version is just a guess and was not proved by any comments of statements of the respondents.
It is important to mention that in order to address the potential reluctance of the respondents; each copy of a questionnaire contained a section that informed the participants about the complete confidentiality of the research and the preservation of their identities. The participants were not asked to specify their names or any other personal information; the questions they were to answer also mentioned that no detailed reports were sought; all they were asked to provide were personal opinions and yes/no answers. Below is the text that was present in every copy of the questionnaire:
“I would be thankful if you help me in my research paper by answering the following questions. Please be informed that the answers you provide will not be published, and this questionnaire will not be used as a means against anyone”.
Sampling and Limitations
The respondents were sampled randomly. The only concern was the demographics. In my opinion, it was important to include diverse individuals in the research. The sample included two males and two female respondents of whom two (one man and one woman) were expatriate workers. The level of professional experience and the number of years the respondents spent working for the SCO also differed.
The final sample turned out to be rather small which means that its validity and transferability are mostly limited. However, the responses provided by the four participants shed the light on some of the equality problems in the organisation. In my opinion, it can be assumed that if the questionnaire distributed to a very small sample of workers managed to reveal some equality issues, the patterns would be even more distinct in a bigger group of people.
Rules and Awareness
The first question was “can you name your organisation’s rules as to providing sick leaves to the employees?” All four respondents answered it in their questionnaires. In their answers, all of the participants gave full and detailed descriptions of the procedures that had to be done in case of a sick leave. Namely, the respondents mentioned the need for the medical certificate attested by the Health Authority, and a form for the HR department the employees are to fill in and sign.
The answers of the respondents made it clear that all of them were informed about the rules concerning the request of sick leave. However, none of the participants mentioned the fact that they had to inform their Line Manager about the need to take a sick leave 48 hours before the leave. This pattern can be interpreted in two ways: either the organisation does not stick with this rule, or it fails to make the workers aware of it, which can be used as a group for unfair treatment for the individuals who fail to provide notice to the Manager.
In addition, one of the respondents said the following: “the number of sick day per year is different for nationals and expatriates”. The Handbook does not mention any different treatment as to the sick leave policy for the native and expatriate employees. The comment of the respondent presented above is a basis to assume that there are some unofficial rules in the organisation according to which the employees may be treated unequally depending on their country of origin.
The second question was “have you ever requested a sick leave?” Each of the four respondents provided answer to it. The question was placed on the list in order to estimate the validity of the answers and establish whether or not the employees have faced the issues of sick leave provision in reality. Three out of four participants answered “yes”, which means that their answers can be considered as valid because they spoke from personal experience. One respondent said: “No. It is automatically given if a sick note is provided and if the numbers of days are available”. The respondent does not have a practical experience of being on sick leave but seems to be well-informed about the procedure of getting it since their answers to the questions 1 and 2 are very straightforward and confident.
The third question was: “If yes (refers to the experience of being on sick leave) were your demands met equitably?” Three out of four respondents noted that they were satisfied with how the organisation treated them in terms of sick leave provision. One participant gave no answer since they indicated having no previous experience of requesting a sick leave.
Evidence of Inequality
The fourth question was the following: “Are you aware of any cases of inequality in reference to sick leave provision in this organisation? Do you know any people (without naming them) who were treated unfairly in this reference? (rejected sick leaves, no paid leave provided, etc.)” Three out of four respondents admitted that they had no knowledge of any cases of inequitable treatment of other employees by the organisation in terms of sick leave provision. However, one participant said that they knew about a case of unfair treatment without specifying what kind of inequality it involved.
Possibility of Changes
The final question was: “(In case if the respondent expressed dissatisfaction with the regulations as to sick leaves): do you feel something could be done to change the current inequality?” This question was designed to provide the respondents aware of cases of unfair treatment with an opportunity to suggest a way of addressing the problem. Interestingly, out of three workers, who stated that they did not know about any cases of inequality in the previous question, one skipped the fifth question while two others said that they that nothing could be done to change the current system.
Such answer allows one to assume that the respondents, in fact, were aware that the unfair treatment existed in the organisation but could not be prevented in any way. In addition, one respondent who mentioned being aware of inequitable treatment of workers in terms of sick leave provision said the following: “The employee should be provided with the reason for rejection and be notified if there are any change of the organisation rules and regulations”. This response indicates two problems – the failure of the organisation to provide enough information for the employees to know their rights and the miscommunication from the side of the authorities in reference to the reasons for sick leave rejection. The proposition of the respondent is sound and logical.
The research conducted at Scholarship Office Abu Dhabi showed that the organization has equality issues in terms of the provision of sick leaves to its workers. First of all, the overall knowledge of the rules of the acquisition of sick leave among the respondents of the research was good. However, one of them admitted being aware of unfair treatment of a colleague, and another one unwillingly mentioned different rules as to the number of sick days available to the native and expatriate workers that demonstrates inequality.
Overall, it is possible to outline three potential problems in this area – the failure of the organisation to provide enough information to the employees about their duties and rights, and the lack of mutual communication and the explanation why the leave is rejected. The third problem is perceived to be unequal treatment of native and expatriate employees. The size of sample for the research was rather small, and a larger group of respondents is needed for more careful data. However, even the experiment with a small number of participants unearthed several challenges that persist in the organisation.
When it comes to the UAE Labour Law applied in practice, the question of inequality is mentioned by many researchers and in various spheres. This paper provided the introduction of theoretical regulations as to the sick leave provision as stated in the Labour Law of the UAE and in the Employee Handbook of SCO and compared it to the research of practical experiences among the workers of the organisation.
The questionnaire distributed among a small group of employees (4 people only) has revealed three problems – awareness of the employees about their rights, two-way communication between the workers and the organisation, and different treatment of workers based on their country of origin. The last concern is just an assumption that was made possible due to the exposure of the migrant and expatriate workers in the UAE to inequitable practices from the side of the employers (Malit & Youha, 2013).
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Fernandez, B. (2014). Essential yet Invisible: Migrant Domestic Workers in the GCC. Web.
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