BBG panel share insights on emerging trends in regional employment landscape

Experts in the fields of law, immigration, insurance, and human resources have shared their insights on the emerging trends in the regional employment market as part of an industry panel session convened by the British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates (BBG). In a comprehensive discussion in front of more than 100 delegates, the panel tackled a wide range of labour market issues, from sponsorship and Emiratisation to contracts, visas and insurance.

Helping to demystify the recent amendments to UAE labour law, the session opened with a presentation from Thenji Moyo, Partner and Head of the Employment Practice at Gateley Legal UK LLP (DMCC Branch), who revealed the details behind the top ten changes to the legal framework. Going on to discuss the latest trends in immigration and mobility, Abeer Al Husseini, Partner at Fragomen, explained the increased emphasis on nationalisation programmes, alongside multiple initiatives to attract and retain international talent.

Moving to the panel discussion, Moyo and Al Husseini were joined by Sonny Ridgewell, Managing Director at Beneple, and Mohammed Al Zarooni, Senior VP and Head of HR and Emiratisation at Citi. Moderated by Katy Holmes, General Manager of BBG, the conversation opened with a reflection on the rising targets for Emiratisation and the practical steps that companies can take, as well as the pitfalls that should be avoided.

Sharing his knowledge of compliance from an insurance perspective, Ridgewell revealed, “While some Dubai-based companies have tried to address the quota targets by setting up entities in Abu Dhabi, the law mandates that employees are required to have insurance compliant with the Emirate they work in, which in Abu Dhabi includes a spouse and up to three dependents. This is a reminder that employers need to be mindful about their approach in meeting the requirements.”

Sharing the strategic approaches implemented by Citi, Al Zarooni explained, “We have a methodology based on three-pillars: hiring, development, and retention. We hire 20 to 30 graduate analysts each year and we support them to develop and grow within the business. They can explore a range of career paths through rotations across different departments and they receive mentoring support from senior personnel in the company. We are competing for a small talent pool, but our focus on engaging with graduates has proved successful; for example, our current CEO first joined us as an analyst.”

Going on to discuss updates to contract and visa regulations, a live poll of the audience demonstrated that the vast majority of businesses are aware of and compliant with the fixed term contract requirements. Discussing the take up of the golden visas implemented in 2019, Al Husseini noted that, at the time, according to government data, “There have been 166,000 golden visas issued up to 2022, representing around 1.6-1.8% of the foreign national population.”

She added, “We know there is growing interest in obtaining a golden visa, however in addition to meeting eligibility criteria, interested parties are also taking costs and the administrative process into account, while some employees may be waiting for their current visa to expire before exploring this route.” A subsequent audience poll revealed that almost two thirds of companies were supporting their employees with the transition to golden visas, while 60% of individuals were considering the move.

Addressing other law changes surrounding employees benefits and insurance, workplace conduct and bullying, the discussion concluded with a look ahead to COP 28 and the requirements for incoming businesses taking part in the event. Moyo advised, “Companies need to ensure they have the correct approvals in place for employees to work in-country for the relevant period, as well as taking care of contractual requirements and workplace processes.”

The panel discussion was part of the ongoing BBG Business Briefings series, held at least once a month to spotlight the latest industry trends and business challenges affecting Dubai-based companies. Speaking about the the event, Katy Holmes, General Manager of BBG said, “This event was a great demonstration of the wealth of knowledge within the BBG Membership enabling us to curate a panel with subject matter experts to address an obvious need for information and guidance on the ‘doing business in Dubai’ landscape with over 100 members in attendance.”