We look at the UAE law and its rules on expatriate employment
21 November 2019| Last updated on 23 January 2020
In today's hiring market, employees usually prefer jobs that provide health insurance , and they will sometimes place the highest value on medical benefits more than additional pay.
In the UAE, it is required for all working expats to subscribe to a health insurance policy. Expatriates cannot be employed, issued residency visas, or have their permits renewed unless they have medical insurance.
The UAE law states that it is illegal to work in the UAE without a valid work permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE).
Article 13 of the UAE Employment Law says, "No non-national may be recruited for work in the UAE without the prior approval of the Ministry and without first obtaining a work permit in accordance with the procedures and regulations laid down by the MOHRE. Such permit shall not be granted unless the following conditions are fulfilled:
- 1. That the employee possesses the professional competence or educational qualification which the country is in need of.
- 2. That the employee has lawfully entered the country and satisfies the conditions prescribed in the residence regulations in force in the State."
Is my employer required to provide health insurance?
Only a few cities in the UAE made it mandatory for employers to pay for the health insurance of their staff.
It is required for all employers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to provide at least the basic health insurance plan for employees. For those who wish to have other medical benefits that are not included in the basic insurance plan, you may purchase the additional benefits by paying for the premium - this, however, is not the responsibility of the company.
An employee's health insurance plan is only valid during their period of employment as mentioned in the contract. If an expat in the UAE has an expired employment contract, and if the employer is interested in continuing the employee's service, the company must renew it with a new health insurance plan.
Should your Dubai-based or Abu Dhabi-based employer fail to provide or renew your health insurance, you may approach MOHRE and lodge a complaint against your employer.
In other Emirates - Sharjah, Ras al Khaimah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain - employers are not required to provide health insurance policies to their expatriate staff, as per the law.
Mandatory health insurance for dependents
As per the Abu Dhabi Health Insurance Law, the employer must also be responsible for providing health insurance to all employees' family members in the UAE - limited to one spouse and three children below 18 years old.
Article 5 of the Abu Dhabi Health Insurance Law states, "Every employer shall provide health insurance coverage for all his employees/workers and their family members covering the employee's/worker's wife and three children under 18 years of age. Every sponsor shall subscribe to the scheme for any person under his sponsorship from the date of his arrival to the State unless such person is entitled for health insurance coverage by an employer. Expatriates may not be employed, issued residence permits nor have their existing permits renewed unless they are subscribed to the health insurance scheme."
However, in Dubai, employers are not legally obliged to provide health insurance for the employee's dependents. Medical insurance policies for family members and domestic workers must be shouldered by the visa sponsor themselves.
In other Emirates such as Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah where companies are not required to provide health insurance for their employees, the same is applied to their staff's dependents.