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Working in Dubai

The boom that Dubai has undergone, even in just the last few years, means that the job market is constantly changing. At the very senior end of the scale there remain some idyllic opportunities and huge packages that attract the big players, and these are predominantly in the construction, aviation and finance industries.

However, for positions lower than senior management, the image of a cushy expatriate life in the Gulf is changing, with much more competition in all areas of the market and an increasing number of people looking for work in Dubai. Not so long ago foreign expatriates could walk in to jobs that they could only dream of back home, but these days the market is much more competitive, not least because of the effects of the global economic downturn.

While Dubai tries to promote itself as the business and entertainment capital of the world, the government has a complex and at times frustrating work permit procedure that one should not attempt on their own unless they have prior experience. Therefore, it is best to go through official channels when looking for work in Dubai as spot inspections are frequent and if found working illegally, both the employee and the employer will be subject to fines and even deportation.

All the necessary forms and documents are written and processed in Arabic and is best left to a professional or a "P.R.O." to handle your paperwork.

Different nationalities have different rules about changing jobs and its frequency. South Asian Nationals have to work for a minimum of 1 year before looking out for another opening elsewhere or face a 6-month ban on working in the country. Western European and North American nationals however, need not worry as this rule does not apply to them.

With the price of rentals ever soaring in Dubai and neighboring Emirates, it is a good idea to discuss a housing allowance when negotiating a pay package.

Despite all this, there are a few upsides, Dubai companies are generous with holidays averaging almost 39 days a year of paid vacation (including public holidays), a round trip ticket home once a year (depending on your contract) and most importantly all your earnings are 100% tax free.

Recruitment fraud is quite pervasive in this part of the world. Read your employment contract carefully before signing and do not pay any fees to recruitment agencies, as they are usually paid by the companies. Your passport is your personal property and cannot be withheld by the employer unless you are in a position of trust or are handling large sums of money.

Traditionally, most expatriate contracts were for two years only, but it’s becoming increasingly common for contracts to be open-ended. Employers have found that they can be held to a defined period if the employee proves unsatisfactory, and most contracts now have a termination notice period of between one and three months, or payment in lieu of notice. Contracts can be extended or renewed by mutual consent and frequently are if all parties are happy with things as they are. It’s quite common for expatriates to stay in the Dubai for 20 years or more.

All expatriates must undertake a government-controlled medical examination prior to the issue of a work residence visa. The examination includes a general health check to look for serious infectious diseases and infirmities, but especially for HIV and AIDS.

The examination is likely to be more stringent for workers from the Indian sub-continent and south-east Asia, who may have greater exposure to disease and less access to advanced medical resources in their home countries than westerners. The AIDS test is mandatory, including for spouses and, if you’re shown to be HIV positive, you will be expelled immediately. The test is also given when work visas are renewed, which is usually on a three-year cycle.

The working week in Dubai tends to vary between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the particular company’s policy. Office hours are usually from 8:30 or 9 am to 5:30 or 6 pm, but some companies also split the working day in two, usually from 8 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 7 pm. There are no differences in time keeping between summer and winter. In the month of Ramadan, the working day is reduced to six hours and legally this should apply to all staff, but many companies only apply it to Muslims, who fast during daylight hours.

Friday is the Muslim rest day and, if your company has a 5-day working week, the other day off will probably be either Thursday or Saturday. Saturday is the more popular choice for international companies, as taking Thursday off would mean a reduction in the number of operational days in common with much of the rest of the world. Conversely, other companies insist on Thursday, as the school ‘weekend’ is Thursday and Friday.





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