Being pregnant with your first baby is a huge change in any woman’s life, especially if you’ve been a career woman up until now. If you know you want to or need to continue working once you become a mother, and you aren’t sure how your employer will react to the news of your pregnancy, you may have some concerns about your employment rights. While you can read about your maternity-leave rights in the UAE here, we asked Anna Marshall, employment associate at Al Tamimi & Company, whether it’s possible for an employer to terminate the contract of an employee once they hear of her pregnancy. Here’s what Marshall had to say:
Can I be fired or made redundant while I am pregnant?
The UAE Labour Law does not include any specific provisions regarding termination of employment during pregnancy. However, if a pregnant woman is dismissed without a valid reason (i.e. other than due to her performance or conduct), she can file an employment claim in the UAE Labour Court. While the Court would not require the employer to reinstate the employee to her position/role with the company, the Court may award the employee compensation if the Court ultimately determined that she had been dismissed without a valid reason (bearing in mind that pregnancy in itself is not a valid reason for dismissal). The maximum amount of compensation that may be awarded to the employee is 3 months’ gross salary, in addition to her contractual and statutory entitlements such as end of service gratuity.
Does my employer have to keep my same role open for me while I’m on maternity leave?
No, the UAE Labour Law does not require the employer to keep the same role open for the employee. However, the employer is not permitted to reduce the employee’s salary without her written consent, as salary is a fundamental term of employment.
Read more: 'The UAE working mum's survival guide'
Can my employer fire me or make me redundant while I am on maternity leave?
An employer is not permitted to dismiss an employee while she is on maternity leave. However, if an employer did so, the employee’s only legal recourse would be to file a compensation claim against her employer in the UAE Labour Court. In other words, the Court would not require the employer to reinstate the employee to her position/role in the company, even if she had been dismissed while on maternity leave. If an employee was dismissed during maternity leave and did sue her employer for compensation, the employee is likely to be awarded the full amount of compensation due to the circumstances, being 3 months’ gross salary (in addition to the employee’s contractual and statutory entitlements such as end of service gratuity) and potentially the remaining balance of the maternity pay due to her.