A POSITIVE STEP- NEW ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW IN THE UAE
The Federal Law No 2 of 2015 dealing with Preventing Discrimination and Hatred (the ‘Law’) was recently announced in the UAE, in July 2015. This Article will outline some of the key points in relation to this Law.
The purpose of this Law
This Law criminalises any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion, caste, colour, ethnic origin, creed or race. The UAE is home to many expats, belonging to various nationalities and one of the main purposes of this Law is to promote a society that actively encourages a tolerant and open minded environment and to protect the individuals within the UAE from being discriminated against on the basis of their origin, religion, beliefs or race.
This new Law is a remarkable development in the UAE, as not only does it have implications within the context of criminal law but it will also have wider implications within an employment context.
Discrimination under the Law
Under this Law, it will be a criminal offence to encourage hatred or insult religion. Should an individual use an expression via any means that constitutes discrimination, then such individual shall be punished by a minimum prison sentence of 5 years and a maximum of 10 years. Furthermore, a conviction under this Law also carries huge fines ranging from AED 500,000 to AED 2 million.
Pursuant to the Law, an ‘expression’ can include any speech, writing, signal, drawing, photographs, miming, or singing. The definition of ‘means’ also varies from internet, telecommunications network, pamphlets/brochures, websites, I.T devices, industrial materials to any written, audio or visual means. Therefore under this Law, both the words ‘expression’ and ‘means’ are given a broad meaning.
Analysis of the Law within the context of employment
The Law is an extremely positive development as it will have far reaching implications not just for individuals in the society but also for employees and employers within the workplace.
A particular provision in the Law, which is likely to have a direct impact on employers is Article 17 of the Law. This Article provides for the joint liability of both the managers/agents/representatives of companies as well as their employees, if an employee commits an offence punishable under this Law. This is quite interesting as this is similar to the concept of vicarious liability found in the Dubai International Financial Centre (‘DIFC’) Employment Laws, whereby an employer may be held vicariously liable for the discriminatory acts of its employees. Given this, it is recommended that all companies and HR Managers review their current Staff Handbooks to ensure compliance with this new Law.
The current UAE Labour Law (Federal Law No 8. of 1980), unlike that DIFC which has anti-discrimination provisions, at the moment has no anti-discrimination provisions that protect the employees from discrimination within the workplace. Therefore, one analysis of the Law may be whether it has paved the way for introducing specific anti-discrimination provisions within the UAE Labour Law.
However, as this Law has recently been introduced, it will take some time to see how this Law is enforced by the authorities and whether it will trigger any changes to the current UAE Labour Law.
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