As per new research held by Aetna International, the pandemic crisis has brought about a new mandate to improve comprehensive employee health benefits provision. And as of now, in 2023, employee’s health has become the topmost priority for organizations and other employers in UAE.

Additionally, on a survey released by the Friends Provident International today, it has also been found that over 57% of the UAE employees, if they have to leave the job on account of critical illness, will suffer from financial instability within three months. Their overall livelihood and survival would be at high risk.

As such, the outcomes from studies and the post-Covid situations have led the UAE employers to be more responsible for their employees’ health. The rising expectations from employees on the matter of health benefits provided by the employer also triggered the companies to own the responsibility of the employees’ health.

Although the UAE Labor Law demands employers to provide their employees with mandatory health insurance coverage, they do not have an obligation to cover their employees’ dependents. The choice of covering the employee’s dependent’s health insurance all lies upon the decision and policies of the company. However, as a family member, the employee can separately apply for a group health insurance in UAE that fully covers their dependent’s health.

Moreover, in the light of the post-covid situations, about two-thirds of the UAE human resource professionals feel that the responsibility of the employers in line with the employee’s health has extended beyond the workplace settings.

It is presumably okay with the UAE employers feeling the extend of the employee’s health’s responsibility. Because as a matter of fact, companies have to now consider many other things for effective business operation. Although more than 50% of the UAE population are vaccinated, the pandemic influence still exists.

The UAE labor laws and employment regimes mandate that employers protect the health and maintain the safety of their employees in the office. Thus, within the office or workplace settings, the responsibility of the employers lies herewith:

  • Reviewing the current attendance policy.
  • Encouraging employees to work from home seems practical and convenient because working part-time is rare in the UAE. 
  • Ensuring that social distancing measures are followed throughout wherever possible.
  • Reminding employees to maintain good hygiene when in communal areas or in contact with coworkers.
  • Ensuring that employees follow the covid protocols of the office appropriately.

It has also been found that the covid 19 has a considerable impact on the employees’ mental health. If the mental health is affected, it could potentially harm the work performance and productivity of the employee. Thus, the employee’s health protection under the UAE labor laws regime also includes mental health.

Therefore, UAE employers must take into account some appropriate measures that could significantly minimize the pandemic effect on working conditions. Concerning the same, the employers can introduce employee assistance programs and wellbeing policies for counseling that could provide the employees’ space to express their concerns and ability to cope with changing work pressures.

Generally, the commute of the employees to the workplace is not a concern for the employers. However, seeing the circumstances as it is due to the pandemic, it has become an undeniable factor that companies must consider when forming the new office rules.

So, in regards to the travel restrictions that might be in place, it is the responsibility of the employers to:

  • Review travel policies that might affect the employee’s work.
  • Limit any overseas meetings and travels to prevent any potential risks by considering other modes of communication like video conferencing.
  • Provide work from the home break for a considerate period to employees who have recent overseas travel history to prevent the spread of any infection.
  • Offer the employees to hold meetings remotely.

The global pandemic outbreak has caused an unexpected economic downfall in UAE businesses. However, in 2023, they have come back with more significant goals and changed employee measures. For instance, many companies have introduced mandatory unpaid leave periods and short-term salary deductions.

Another aspect that the employer and companies feel indirectly responsible for is their employees’ Covid testing and proper vaccinations. The UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has made a mandatory policy since March 2021 that unvaccinated employees must do PCR testing every 14 days. The employee’s refusal to do so could lead to dismissal from the job on a misconduct basis or disciplinary sanction. Even though the nature of work is not public, the employee has to comply with the policy as set by the company or the employer.

Wrap Up

Overall, the pandemic situation and changes in the employee terms and conditions and guidance provided by legal authorities have considerably increased the employer’s responsibility towards their employees’ health and other benefits.

You can also consider reading: Remote Working Post-Pandemic: A Guide for the Career-Driven

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