The Ministry of Labour on Sunday announced the decision to introduce the midday break for UAE labourers, prohibiting them from working under direct sunlight between 12:30pm and 3:00pm for three months, from 15th June till 15th September.
Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Labour, stated that the working hours during the period, divided into two — morning and night shifts — can have an 8 hour span, and in case the labourers were asked to work more, then they must be compensated for overtime as per the laws.
The ruling also enquires employers to post a clear schedule of the daily working hours during the midday break period, apart from providing shelter to the labourers during rest hours.
Maher Al Obed, Assistant Undersecretary for the Inspectional Affairs at the Ministry, in a conference held to make the announcement, stated that “the ruling, which has been running (during such hot days) for 11 continuous years, was launched to promote health and safety precautions while on duty, in accordance with international standards.”
“This is considered one of the most prominent and important preventive measures to protect workers from the risk of working under direct sunlight in extreme high temperatures,” he said.
He pointed out that the ministry has formed 18 squads to monitor compliance across the nation during the midday break period, and will also distribute awareness leaflets to both employers and labourers to promote awareness.
“We seek to launch over 60,000 inspectional visits, and 20,000 visits aimed only at spreading the message. These will start on Monday (June 1st) across the country and thousands of flyers in 10 different languages will be distributed,” he said.
The midday break, Al Obed pointed out, is part of many other initiatives undertaken by several government and private institutions in partnership with the Ministry of Labour, and mentioned in particular free medical examinations for workers and offering them guidance to protect them against dangers in general.
“Initiatives are also undertaken by many members of the community who distribute cold water and refreshments to the labourers on duty, thus embodying the values of compassion and solidarity in the UAE society.”
Referring to punitive part, Al Obed said violators will be fined AED5,000 per worker found working during the break, and up to Dh50,000 if the issue involved a number of workers. “The company’s profile will be forwarded by the inspections department to the Minister’s office where the minister might consider temporarily stopping the entity plus reducing its classification level,” he said.
Last year’s statistics have shown compliance with the midday break rule across the nation reaching 95.5 per cent, Al Obed said, adding that the numbers clearly underscore that most companies respect the decision and abide with the UAE labour laws.
“The ministry will take note of any observations made by the public if they found labourers working during the period. They can report through the toll-free number 800665 or by filing a report using the free MOL smartphones app,” he said.
It was mentioned that the minister took note of some exceptional cases that require continuation of work during this midday period due to technical reasons, but specified that even in such cases, employers are obliged to provide cold drinking water, safety tools and materials, salt, lemon, fresh salads and all necessities that have been approved for use by health authorities in the country.
Employers are also required to provide first aid kits in the workplace and means of appropriate cooling systems and umbrellas to protect from direct sunlight.
Works excluded from working hours ban include work on mix asphalt poured concretes if it is impossible to implement or supplement the necessary work in one day or doing work to prevent expected danger or reparation or damage or malfunction or loss and also emergency work, including cutting lines, water supply, sewerage, electricity and cutting off traffic or blocking public roads in addition to cut gas pipelines or petroleum flow.
“During Ramadan, our teams will still go around and inspect working sites during the midday break, as the timings during the Holy Month will stay the same and will not be changed,” he added.
Employers are also required to provide first aid kits in the workplace and means of appropriate cooling systems and protecting umbrellas from direct sunlight.
Works excluded from banned working hours include work on mix asphalt poured concretes if it is impossible to implement or supplemented the necessary work in one day or doing work to prevent expected danger or reparation or damage or malfunction or loss and also emergency work, including cutting lines, water supply, sewerage, electricity and cut off traffic or blocking public roads in addition to cut gas pipelines or petroleum.
“During Ramadan our teams will still go around and inspect those working site during the midday break, as the timings during the holy month will stay the same and will not be changed,” he added.