Employment in United Arab Emirates
Samir Kantaria heads the employment and incentives practice at Al Tamimi & Company; the team has 'been in the region a long time and has established a solid brand' and is 'very practical and no-nonsense in its approach'. It acts for private sector, semi-governmental and governmental employers, which turn to the firm for advice on local and regional employment and immigration issues. Among a long list of recent highlights was its work for Microsoft in harmonising employment contracts across the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. The sizeable team includes Gordon Barr, who is 'very responsive, good with detail and user-friendly', and Ivor McGettigan, who is considered 'a "go-to" employment lawyer in Abu Dhabi'.
‘Al Tamimi’s extensive footprint in the region with specialist lawyers in the different markets enables it to provide a unique service offering.‘
‘The most well established and experienced employment law team in the UAE.‘
‘The Employment team at Al Tamimi has more experience than most firms at dealing with all aspects of the Labour Law, and has significant first hand dealings with the Ministry of Labour and relevant authorities on the full variety of employment, on-boarding, termination and sponsorship procedures.’
‘The team was approachable, empathetic and thorough. They highlighted the key risks and opportunities we faced with our project, and were extremely prompt with their support.‘
‘Gordon Barr is technically astute and can be relied upon to provide clear, concise and practical advice. He is accessible, responsive and has no ego.‘
‘Natalie Jones was approachable, and she made a real effort to make our lives a lot easier by going through the various options we had, and making everything easy to understand.‘
‘Ivor McGettigan’s advice is always practical and sound.‘
Intel Corporation Inc.
- Advised Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) on the employment and immigration implications of ADNH’s acquisition of five major Emaar hotels in prestigious locations and the numerous restaurant outlets established in those hotels.
- Instructed by Microsoft to analyse and, to the extent possible, harmonise employment contracts over several jurisdictions to ensure compliance with any regional laws.
- Undertook an assessment of Sanofi’s UAE operations in order to provide Sanofi with a comprehensive report and guidance on any risks faced as a result of its set up and practices in the UAE.
Clyde & Co LLP
Clyde & Co LLP is 'knowledgeable of the law, and most importantly, is very familiar with precedents in the courts'. The specialist employment team includes bilingual English and Arabic speakers and is equipped to assist clients with sensitive contentious, non-contentious and transactional matters. Areas of strength include recruitment, termination, breach of contract, international secondments and the structuring of employment contracts and arrangements across numerous jurisdictions. On the transactional side, the group also regularly advises on the employment elements of large corporate transactions. The 'very responsive' Rebecca Ford jointly heads the team with Sara Khoja and Emma Higham. At the senior associate level, Samantha Ellaby and Ben Brown also receive praise.
Rebecca Ford; Emma Higham; Sara Khoja
‘Clyde & Co’s employment team have been first and foremost responsive. They respond around the clock and this makes me feel supported as a client. The team is coherent and are aware of the case at hand. I never have to do any catch up if someone else picks up my matter.‘
‘Rebecca Ford is very well versed on the law and at the same time she applies a certain level of commercial approach with her clients which ensures a win-win situation to both her client and the law.‘
‘Ben Brown has been meticulous in his presentation of the case yet very commercial. He strikes the right balance in preserving his client interest whilst responding to the urgency of the matter.‘
‘Another member of the employment practice whose service has been impeccable is Samantha Ellaby.‘
Saudi British Bank
- Acted for Brunswick in a claim by an ex-employee for approximately AED500,000; the DIFC Court found in favour of Brunswick and ordered the ex-employee to re-pay the outstanding balance of her housing loan.
- Advising the DIFC Authority on the new employment law to be enacted in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
- Advising Saudi British Bank on all employment matters arising from the merger of SABB and Alawwal Bank in Saudi Arabia.
The employment group at Afridi & Angell comprises lawyers with multidisciplinary expertise across labour law, dispute resolution, M&A and finance. It is particularly notable for its ability to handle high-value and highly sensitive employment disputes. One recent example was its representation of ED&F Man Capital Markets in highly contested employment proceedings concerning breach of restrictive covenants and breach of confidence by an employee and conspiracy by a competitor which the employee planned to join; the case was unique because it was the first time a “springboard injunction” had been sought from the DIFC Courts; Stuart Walker and dispute resolution partner Haider Afridi led the team. Sulakshana Senanayake is a key associate in the department.
‘The team had strength in depth, and a real understanding of the practice and procedure of the DIFC courts, as well as the instinctive feel for the approach of the judges in the Court.‘
‘The team at Afridi was a pleasure to work with.‘
‘Both Stuart Walker and Sulakshana Senanayake worked extremely hard – often at short notice and under considerable time pressure – and were prepared to go the extra mile for the client and the team. They also had a very good feel for the way that the DIFC Court would receive submissions – whether a point was likely to fall flat or engage the Court.‘
ED&F Man Capital Markets Ltd.
Eastman Kodak Company
- Acted for ED&F Man Capital Markets Ltd, a leading international brokerage house, in employment proceedings before the DIFC Courts in relation to breach of restrictive covenants and breach of confidence by an employee and conspiracy by a competitor.
- Advised the Eastman Kodak Company on the employment matters of the sale of its flexographic packaging division to Montagu Private Equity LLP.
- Advising BGRS and CFA Institute on UAE laws applicable to their employees within the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre free zone and the Abu Dhabi Global Market, respectively.
DLA Piper Middle East LLP's employment team saw organic growth with the promotion of Iain Skinner to partner in May 2019. The team continues to work with its household name global clients and has also recently won a number of new clients, including in the tech, pharmaceutical and financial services sectors. It has recently seen high levels of large employment claims involving management-level employees. Neil Crossley heads the practice, which also includes rising star Patricia Wardrop.
‘The employment team provides insightful, commercially-focused and pragmatic advice.‘
‘Patricia Wardrop is excellent, detail oriented and strategic.‘
‘Neil Crossley is very commercial, personable and much loved by my HR team, who regularly request training sessions with him directly.‘
- On behalf of a global hotel chain, carried out a full HR audit of all employment policies for each of the client’s hotels in the ADGM, Dubai, DIFC, Bahrain, Kuwait and Riyadh, to ensure compliance with local employment laws.
- Provides day-to-day employment advice to a global company in the media and entertainment business; recently, this included advising on discrimination allegations.
Eversheds Sutherland LLP is 'well versed in DIFC laws and regulations, and the team's local knowledge and experience is hugely impressive'; another client notes that 'it is clear from the team's actions that it has an authentic desire to provide the client with the best possible service, rather than paying lip service to that intention'. The team handles sensitive contentious and non-contentious labour matters, and among its areas of expertise are crisis management, culture change, immigration, redundancy and the review of employment arrangements and reward strategies. The team is split between Abu Dhabi, where practice head Geraldine Ahern is based, and Dubai, where principal associate and rising star Sarah Anderson is based.
‘For me, what makes this team unique is their knowledge base for their location of support (Dubai), which can be tricky to understand and navigate. They are also so available for calls and very responsive to emails – everything you want when seeking support.’
‘Eversheds’ employment team are one of, if not the, most client-centric teams that I’ve ever worked with. They are always looking for ways to mould their service offering to meet the needs of our business and to deliver legal advice in a way which exceeds our expectations.‘
‘We approached Eversheds with an urgent query which required immediate action – they were incredibly responsive, thorough and pragmatic in their advice.‘
‘Geraldine Ahern is an exceptional relationship management partner who can be counted on to provide solutions under extreme pressure. She is ably supported by Sarah Anderson who is rock-solid and a great strategic thinker. Together, they make a formidable team.‘
‘Sarah Anderson’s local knowledge is unsurpassed. She is responsive, pragmatic and is able to deliver resolute replies which I have no doubt resulted in huge costs savings to our group.‘
‘Geraldine Ahern’s availability and engagement was incredible from the outset – she was more than willing to assess our group’s needs and offer us all resources at her team’s disposal.‘
Hadef & Partners LLC has seen significant personnel change, and is now led by Rachel Hill, who is supported by a number of experienced associates, including Aisha Khokhar and Rami Omar. The team stands out for its contentious employment law expertise, though it also advises on non-contentious employment and immigration issues. Clients include household name multinationals from numerous sectors, and the team also has experience acting for claimant employees.
Rachel Hill; Yasser Omar
Adidas Emerging Markets LLC
Atlas Mara Management Services Limited
- Instructed by Google on a retainer basis and required to respond to any UAE employment-related queries which are raised either by the local HR team in the UAE or by UK-based employment counsel with responsibility for the Middle East.
- Advising Adidas on ad hoc employment matters including the drafting and reviewing of settlement documentation, advising on the termination of employment contracts; change of terms and conditions of employment and other general employment advice.
- Represented Atlas Mara Management Services in the dismissal of its chief executive officer before the DIFC Court of First Instance.
'Providing international law firm quality from a boutique practice', the employment team at KBH Kaanuun stands out for its broad client base, which includes employers and employees. It was bolstered by the arrival of senior associate and barrister Tina Asgarian from Mourant; Asgarian has diverse litigation experience and joins key employment partner and barrister Bushra Ahmed in the team. On the non-contentious side, the team has expertise in employment contracts and policies, immigration and visa procedures, terminations and redundancies. Managing partner DK Singh is another contact.
Bushra Ahmed; DK Singh
‘KBH has a strong name in the market for employment work, in particular DIFC employment law and disputes in front of the DIFC Courts. They provide international law firm quality from a boutique practice.‘
‘Bushra Ahmed is very active and well regarded for employment work.‘
‘Robert Whitehead provides considered and knowledgeable support.‘
- Acted for a former managing director of a DIFC company in a breach of contract claim in DIFC Court proceedings in respect of a precedent-setting case relating to the Article 18 penalty provisions in the DIFC Employment Law.
Pinsent Masons LLP
Pinsent Masons LLP is noted for its 'excellent advice', which is 'provided in a professional and efficient manner'. The firm is particularly strong in the construction and engineering space, though its client base extends beyond these sectors to include a wide variety of regional and international companies. It advises on a broad spread of UAE onshore and DIFC employment law matters, both contentious and non-contentious. 'Exceptional lawyer' Luke Tapp is 'well respected across his peer group' and 'consistently provides timely, pragmatic and commercial advice which is user-friendly'.
‘A top quality team of lawyers. Advice is on the mark every time.‘
‘I have found Pinsent Masons to be collaborative and helpful. They are my go-to for legal advice in the region.‘
‘Luke Tapp is an exceptional lawyer – his in-depth knowledge of the UAE employment laws coupled with his practical, pragmatic approach to issues makes his advice second to none.‘
‘Andrea Hewitt-Sims and Ruth Stephen are super helpful and responsive.‘
‘Luke Tapp remains a pinnacle of respectability and integrity for Pinsent Masons. He is discreet, exceptionally professional and knowledgeable.‘
University of Birmingham
DMCC Free Zone
- Assisted the University of Birmingham with the incorporation of its Dubai campus and advised on all associated HR matters.
- Worked with the DMCC free zone, the largest economic free zone within the UAE, on a number of matters, including key employment matters and documentation.
- Acted for a client in defending a claim for unfair dismissal, end of service gratuity, outstanding commission payments and notice pay, and pursuing a counter claim for losses arising out of breach of contract.
Squire Patton Boggs stands out for its ability to handle sensitive workplace investigations, including sexual harassment investigations, and the team also provides sexual harassment awareness training to clients. It has expanded its client base recently, and sector specialisms include tech, media and financial services. Highly regarded partner Sarah Lawrence heads the department, which includes key associate Amanda Coppen and is also able to work alongside colleagues in the Doha and Riyadh offices.
‘I have found that SPB’s offering in the Middle East covers all of the services we have required, including operating in all of the relevant jurisdictions in the region from our perspective. They have been easy to work with and have been endlessly patient in educating me about local employment law and have been happy to give us practical commercial advice about operating in the region and the many quirks and customs of local business practice.‘
‘Responsive, clear and concise are the three key traits of SPB helping us deal with employee issues.‘
‘Sarah Lawrence and Amanda Coppen have impressed with their accuracy and turnaround times and, in particular, their ability to find practical ways to achieve what we required.‘
- Advising Collins Aerospace on employment issues across the Middle East, including handling several senior hires and contract terminations in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
- Advised the buyer, a global executive search and leadership consulting firm, on the corporate and employment aspects of its acquisition of a business in the UAE.
- Advising a leading manufacturing company on a significant restructuring and office closure project involving its UAE entity.
The 'exceptionally reliable' employment department at Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla advises regional and multinational companies, and benefits from a broad office network that allows it to form cross-border regional teams. In litigation, the team stands out for its full rights of audience before local, DIFC and ADGM courts, in addition to free zone authorities and tribunals. Joanna Matthews-Taylor draws on almost ten years of experience advising across the gamut of employment and immigration matters in the UAE and Middle East.
Joanna Matthews-Taylor; Mohamed El Khatib
‘Amazing availability and flexibility.‘
‘Exceptional reliability, strong expertise and very pleasant in collaboration.‘
The UAE employment group at DWF Middle East LLP sits within the firm's global labour law practice and is equipped to advise on the gamut of contentious and non-contentious employment matters. In team developments, the firm hired Thenji Macanda from Taylor Wessing (Middle East) LLP in September 2019 to jointly head the employment practice with Shiraz Sethi. Sethi worked alongside senior associate Ali Al Assaad and dispute resolution partner Haytham Alieh to act for Outotec Engineering DMCC in a dispute litigated before the Dubai Courts concerning whether the relationship with an individual was of a commercial or employment nature.
Shiraz Sethi; Thenji Macanda
‘They are quick at responding and give comprehensive advice on the matter.‘
‘Nicolas Pieri explains things very well.‘
Burgan Bank A.S.
Guidepoint Global LLC
Ecolog International FZE
Allied Power International Energy Power Services LLC
Leonardo DRS Inc.
MTN Group Management Services
Outotec Engineering DMCC
Naser Mohamed Al-Baddah & Partner for General Contracting LLC
HS Media Group
- Assisted Burgan Bank A.S. with the closure of its DIFC entity, Burgan Wealth Limited, focusing on the provision of strategic employment advice in order to facilitate the smooth contract termination of all Burgan Wealth employees.
- Advising Allied Power International Energy Power Services LLC on the employment and transfer of US citizens to the United Arab Emirates.
- Acting for Outotec Engineering DMCC in a dispute concerning whether the relationship with an individual providing services to Outotec was of a commercial or employment nature.
K&L Gates provides a broad contentious and non-contentious employment offering in the UAE and the broader MENA region. In dispute resolution, the team acts for clients in claims relating to breach of restrictive covenants, arbitrary dismissal, discrimination, and other areas, in the DIFC courts and alongside local advocates in local courts. Highly experienced practice head Nazanin Aleyaseen is ably supported by of counsel Adela Mues and counsel Mohammed Rwashdeh.
Amadeus IT System SA
- Advised Amadeus IT System SA on a range of employment law issues, including rights and obligations under UAE federal labour law, drafting of employment contracts, termination notices, settlement and release agreements, non-compete clauses, end-of-service obligations and sick leave.
Stephenson Harwood's employment, pensions and incentives department is 'excellent at understanding what the best solution would be, based on a company's goals and risk appetite'. Its local and international clients operate across the financial services, energy and healthcare sectors, among others, and it also has experience advising senior-level employees. Kiersten Lucas heads the practice, which was recently bolstered by the hire of senior associate Ammar El Banna from Hadef & Partners LLC.
‘Well-organised, enthusiastic and engaging team, knowledgeable and well connected in Dubai.’
‘The Stephenson Harwood employment team delivers practical and unique solutions to the problems that companies and in-house legal teams face. Most employment practices I have dealt with will regurgitate the law and give you options, but Stephenson Harwood is excellent at synthesising the issue and understanding what the best solution would be, based on a company’s goals and risk appetite.‘
‘Not only is their team practical and intelligent, but they are down to earth and enjoyable to deal with regardless of the type of interaction.‘
Marsh Emirates Insurance Brokerage L.L.C.
LOC Group Ltd (London Offshore Consultants)
Accord Healthcare MENA DMCC
Piercing Systems DMCC
Mizuho Bank Ltd
Robert Walters Dubai Limited
Bird & Bird's employment group has recently assisted its clients with terminations, redundancy, employee transfers and investigations. The team is led by transactional partner Anders Nilsson and acts for a number of multinational companies. Senior associate Surabhi Singhi joined from Al Tamimi & Company in 2018.
‘Surabhi Singhi has shown great professionalism, accuracy and speed. Her advice has been detailed and also quite pragmatic and this is what I am looking for.‘
Catherine Beckett heads the Middle East employment and labour law practice at Dentons, which is praised for its 'clear advice' and ability 'to work flexibly'. The team regularly advises high-profile international companies on employment issues.
‘In essence, straightforward, commercially aware lawyers.‘
‘Easy to use lawyers. Clear advice. Able to work flexibly and explain local practice clearly.‘
‘Catherine Beckett has a no-nonsense approach and runs an effective team with Craig Hughson and Anna Terrizzi. Very approachable and responsive.‘
‘Catherine Beckett is a very responsive lawyer who gives good and clear advice.‘
Centerbridge Partners LP
Inmarsat Communications Company LLC
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
- Advising KCI on the secondment and employment agreement arrangements for key employees being transferred from the UAE to Kuwait and from the UAE to Saudi Arabia.
- Assisting LU-VE with contracts for senior management for a newly established entity in the UAE, as well as transfer agreements for the transfer of employees to such new entity.
- Advised Baringa Partners on tailoring UK employment contracts for use in the UAE and in order to comply with UAE Labour Law.
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP bolstered its practice with the promotion of Benjamin Hopps to of counsel in 2019 and appointment as Middle East practice head of employment. He works alongside dispute resolution partner Stuart Paterson and colleagues in the firm's global employment, pensions and incentives practice to advise leading international companies on sensitive labour law issues, both contentious and non-contentious.
Benjamin Hopps; Stuart Paterson
‘Their personal commitment to working with us and really understanding our business is superb. Their strength lies in their technical excellence and advisory skills, they guide and challenge through situation in a collaborative way that educates at the same time.’
‘HSF Dubai have a very efficient team.‘
‘Personal commitment, availability and extreme flexibility, technical excellence and thoroughness of their approach to all options when advising is invaluable.‘
‘Benjamin Hopps and Stuart Patterson make a great team and their junior team members are well thought of by us as well.‘
Under the leadership of director Anir Chatterji, PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal Middle East LLP's employment and immigration practice has seen significant growth and acts for household name companies. Mandeep Kalsi is another name to note, with experience advising across the gamut of employment law issues.
‘Good practical knowledge of the region and policy of the authorities. Prepared to come off the fence and not just recite the legal position.‘
‘Anir Chatterji is commercial, knowledgeable and responsive.‘