|14 January, 2020

Dubai ruler sets stage for February 1 launch of DIFC's new end-of-service scheme

DIFC moves from gratuity payment regime to savings plan for its 24,000 professionals.

Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has enacted amendments to Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Employment Law and new Employment Regulations to introduce new end-of- service savings plan. . Pic: Dubai Media Office Twitter @DXBMediaOffice

Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has enacted amendments to Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Employment Law and new Employment Regulations to introduce new end-of- service savings plan. . Pic: Dubai Media Office Twitter @DXBMediaOffice

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, has enacted amendments to Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Employment Law and new Employment Regulations to introduce new end-of- service savings plan. 

The Amendment Law introduces the new ‘Qualifying Scheme’ workplace savings scheme in the DIFC, the leading international financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, replacing the current end-of-service gratuity payment regime that has been in place since the inception of the DIFC in 2004. 

The new regime starts on February 1, 2020, from which employers will make mandatory monthly contributions to a professionally managed and regulated savings plan, a statement from DIFC said, adding, the plan replaces the existing accruing of end-of-service gratuity benefits in favour of employees, which is currently in line with the rest of the UAE. 

Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, said: "These comprehensive enhancements to DIFC Employment Law will give clear guidance to employers and employees seeking to grow their savings securely while fortifying both their interests. By doing this, the DIFC also sets a clear example for others to follow global best practice in this regard."

DIFC has more than 24,000 professionals working across over 2,300 active registered companies – making up the largest and most diverse pool of industry talent in the region.

The Board of Directors of the DIFC Authority has also issued new Employment Regulations that set out the requirements for Qualifying Schemes. 

Employers will have until 31 March 2020 to enroll into a Qualifying Scheme. These include the DIFC Employee Workplace Savings (DEWS) Plan. Alternatively, employers may seek a Certificate of Compliance from the DIFC Authority for an alternative Qualifying Scheme under the new regulations. 

The requirements for Qualifying Schemes include having an oversight body that will have the right to appoint and remove the scheme operator, review its governance and fees and charges imposed on the scheme. In addition, Qualifying Schemes must require employer and employee representation and independent oversight with the aim of ensuring the proper protection of the employee’s interests. 

Other key changes include:

  • a)           Allowing employees to make voluntary workplace savings contributions into a Qualifying Scheme on top of the mandatory monthly contributions to be made by employers under the Employment Law 
  • b)           Ensuring that any accrued end-of-service benefits under the current regime remain in place, also providing employers with the option to pay these accrued benefits into a Qualifying Scheme 
  • c)            Creating exemptions for certain types of employees, such as those on secondment in the DIFC, short-term workers, equity partners, and employees working for government departments and bodies that have a presence in the DIFC 
  • d)           Settling the mandatory contributions to be made by employers at 5.83 per cent of monthly basic wage (for employees who have less than five years’ service), and 8.33 percent of monthly basic wage for employees who have longer service; 
  • e)           Creating exemptions for international institutions who have a statutory obligation to make pension, retirement or similar contributions on behalf of their employees elsewhere, as well for employers who wish to provide a regulated defined benefit scheme to their employees that provides for benefits in excess of what the mandatory defined contributions are under the DIFC Employment Law. 

“As we gear up for embarking upon expansion that will define the future of finance, amending DIFC Employment Law further demonstrates our position as a forward-thinking international financial hub aligned with global best practice that consistently maintains the best interests of DIFC’s dynamic workforce,” the DIFC governor added. 

(Writing by Seban Scaria seban.scaria@refinitiv.com , Editing by Anoop Menon)

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© ZAWYA 2020

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