Employment in United Arab Emirates

Al Tamimi & Company

Al Tamimi & Company has a sizeable employment practice and regularly acts on the employment aspects of high-profile M&A corporate transactions in the region. Key clients include banks and financial institutions, and companies in the IT and media sectors. The team has a strong presence in the local UAE courts and frequently handles cases before the DIFC and ADGM courts. Practice head Samir Kantaria has a 'commercially driven approach'. Gordon Barr is also noted and specialises in assisting financial institutions in the DIFC. Ivor McGettigan heads the Abu Dhabi practice and is 'outstanding'.

Practice head(s):

Samir Kantaria

Other key lawyers:

Gordon Barr; Ivor McGettigan

Testimonials

‘Excellent local knowledge of employment laws and pragmatic, easy to understand advice for non-lawyers.’

‘Samir Kantaria – First class knowledge of the law and able to explain the implications in a helpful and non-legal for HR professionals and other non-lawyers.’

‘The employment law team at Al Tamimi are an amazing “go to resource” on anything employment law and process related. They are very commercial and not only have knowledge on the law but on the practical application of the law by the relevant authorities. This means they are able to advise on practical solutions to issues and they always do so promptly.’

‘Ivor McGettigan is an outstanding employment law partner. He is always available to take our calls and he will often have answers to our questions immediately. I am not aware of any other employment law partner in the UAE that is as practical, accessible and knowledgeable on this area of law. A gold standard resource for our team.’

‘Very commercial and client focused.’

‘Samir Kantaria took a commercially driven approach to our matter and avoided incurring unnecessary costs where possible.’

Key clients

ENI

Intel Corporation Inc.

AT Kearney

Louis Vuitton

IKEA

Oracle Corporation

LinkedIn

Richemont

Microsoft

Airbus

Emirates NBD PJSC

Kellogg

Sony Music Entertainment

Adidas

Burberry

Friends Provident

Bose Corporation

Bechtel

General Electric

Mitsubishi Corporation

Work highlights

  • Provided input to the Dubai International Financial Centre both strategically and in respect of the drafting of the directive outlining emergency Covid-19 measures.
  • Advising ADGM on amending the ADGM Employment Regulations 2015 to ensure that the regulations reflect global best practice.
  • Advising Sanofi on a compliance assessment concerning its employment practices and procedures with local laws in various jurisdictions and advising on updates to laws or practical changes that would affect those practices and procedures.

Clyde & Co LLP

Clyde & Co LLP has a sizeable employment practice that advises on all aspects of employment law, covering contentious and non-contentious issues. The team has particular expertise in recruitment, employment terminations, breach of contract, international secondments and the structuring of employment contracts and arrangements across multiple jurisdictions. Rebecca Ford advises on a broad range of employment matters and has a particular focus on the oil and gas, financial services and education sectors. Sara Khoja has a strong background in employment and has significant experience advising senior employees.

Practice head(s):

Rebecca Ford; Sara Khoja; Emma Higham

Key clients

McKinsey & Company

Thinkwell Group Inc

Accenture Middle East

Media Zone Authority

Marriott International

Dell EMC

Work highlights

  • Advising McKinsey & Company across 39 different jurisdictions regarding the recruitment process to assess a candidate’s suitability for an employment position.
  • Advising Thinkwell on the staffing and immigration considerations associated with Australian Pavilion at Expo2020 Dubai.
  • Advising Accenture Middle East on a range of matters including, notably, the implications of Covid-19.

Afridi & Angell

Afridi & Angell primarily focuses on representing employers and is a popular choice for large multinationals for employment issues in the UAE. It has considerable expertise representing employers in high-value contentious cases involving departing executives. The team has a strong cross-border presence and regularly advises clients on corporate restructurings and M&A transactions. Practice head Charles Laubach is 'well known' and has 'deep experience' advising on UAE and DIFC employment law. Stuart Walker and associate Sulakshana Senanayake are other key individuals in the team.

Practice head(s):

Charles Laubach

Testimonials

‘Deep experience over many years. Strong on local law advice and current practice of UAE regulators. Very good on advising on current developments and market practice. Good value for the legal spend. Strong bilingual lawyers. Practice standards akin to international law firms. Excellent co-counsel / local counsel for UAE. ’

‘Charles Laubach, Partner. Well known and well regarded. Deep experience over many years in the UAE. Is able to advise on current developments with context and understanding and put things in perspective. This is very important in this market where regulatory practice is always evolving.

Key clients

Citibank

BGRS

ED&F Man Capital Markets Ltd.

DLA Piper

DLA Piper has a broad client offering and advises clients on employment-related matters across multiple sectors including technology, financial services, retail, and media, sports and entertainment. The practice works closely with its other offices in the Middle East and is well placed to provide cross-border advice. Practice head Neil Crossley advises a range of international blue chip clients and has particular experience assisting with cross-border compliance investigations. Iain Skinner is also noted and handles major employment transactions and issues.

Practice head(s):

Neil Crossley

Other key lawyers:

Iain Skinner

Key clients

Emirates NBD

Reckitt Benckiser

Work highlights

  • Advised a Global IT and telecoms client on an investigation and disciplinary issues relating to an online harassment case.
  • Advised an energy sector client on the demerging of two business divisions across a dozen of Middle East and regional territories including Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as advising several hundred staff in advance of a potential spin-off.
  • Advised two global consultancy companies on all areas of employment law and compliance including design of contracts and policies and mobility and benefits.

Eversheds Sutherland LLP

Eversheds Sutherland LLP has a 'very solid' employment practice that covers business expansion, crisis management, disputes, redundancies, reviews of employment arrangements and reward strategy. The team acts for clients active in sectors ranging from TMT and education, to financial services and construction. Managing partner Geraldine Ahern has a strong background in employment and immigration. Principal associate Sarah Anderson is 'efficient and responsible', with considerable experience handling contentious and non-contentious employment and HR issues in the UAE.

Practice head(s):

Geraldine Ahern

Other key lawyers:

Sarah Anderson

Testimonials

‘Very solid reliable employment team.’

‘Sarah Anderson is very efficient and responsive.’

 

Hadef & Partners

Hadef & Partners has a broad client offering with particular strength in the real estate, construction, oil and gas sectors, it is also sought after by management consultancies. The team works alongside the firm's dispute resolution and corporate teams to offer a strong multidisciplinary approach. Rachel Hill heads the employment practice and is 'results-oriented' and 'commercial'. Senior associate Rami Omar provides valuable support to the team. Commercial and corporate practice head Yasser Omar is also noted. Aisha Khokhar left the firm in 2021.

Practice head(s):

Rachel Hill; Yasser Omar

Other key lawyers:

Rami Omar

Testimonials

‘Rachel Hill is responsive, “user friendly” and provides good commercial and legal advice.’

‘We like the quick and short answers that focus on the essentials.’

‘I usually work with Rachel Hill and I like her results-oriented way of working.’

‘We have been using Hadef for many years now, their professionalism, competence and speed of delivery are their key strength. They have provided us with legal advice on a diverse range if issues and they have always guided us in the right direction. ’

‘Rachel has always been extremely helpful. She is experienced and well versed with the UAE laws.’

Key clients

Google LLC

Adidas Emerging Markets LLC

Visa FZ LLC

Work highlights

  • Advising Google on 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 Emerging Markets on ad hoc employment advice including the drafting and reviewing of settlement documentation, advising on employment terminations; changes of terms and conditions of employment and other general employment advice.
  • Representing Visa in respect of all employment matters from employee investigations, employment policy and document review and in termination of employment.

KBH Kaanuun

KBH Kaanuun displays strong contentious expertise with Bushra Ahmed, the head of dispute resolution leading the practice. Ahmed is a practising barrister and advises blue-chip organisations, high-net-worth individuals and government entities. The practice advises on a wide range of non-contentious matters concerning staff handbooks, employment contracts, visa and immigration issues, employment terminations and redundancies. Managing partner DK Singh is also noted and has a strong background in cross-border work and international arbitration. Senior associate Tina Asgarian is another key individual and has strong litigation experience.

Practice head(s):

DK Singh; Bushra Ahmed

Other key lawyers:

Tina Asgarian

Key clients

GMG (Dubai) Limited v Marie Antoine

Work highlights

  • Acting for GMG (Brokers), a company incorporated in the UK in respect of an employment tribunal claim in the UK arising out of a facilities and profit share agreement between MLM Investment Management and GMG.
  • Representing the Defendants, GMG (Dubai) and Mr Olayanju in relation to the DIFC proceedings in a claim for injunctive relief restricting Mr Olayanju from working for GMG based on terms in the employment contract relating to the notice period (12 months) and restrictive covenants (six months).

Pinsent Masons LLP

Pinsent Masons LLP has a strong presence in the energy and infrastructure space and advises a range of clients within these areas. The team advises on a range of UAE onshore and DIFC employment law matters, both contentious and non-contentious. Practice head Luke Tapp is 'very knowledgeable'.

Practice head(s):

Luke Tapp

Testimonials

‘Luke Tapp who runs the team is incredibly knowledgeable about UAE employment law and has built a well respected practice ’

‘Luke is very approachable and easy to talk to. He is also very quick to respond and helpful in his manner. ’

‘For the past few years, we have been working with Luke Tapp – Partner & Head of Middle East Employment Practice, Pinsent Masons LLP. He is a thorough professional and very knowledgeable on employment law subject. We always have a sense of comfort while dealing with him as he has always been helpful and responsive to our questions and concerns.’

Key clients

University of Birmingham

DMCC Free Zone

FTI

KCA Deutag

Reed & MacKay

Tata Group

IMG

BP

Travelport

CNBC

Work highlights

  • Assisting a major US consultancy in the acquisition of an international business which has operations in a Dubai Free Zone, the DIFC Free Zone and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  • Continued to work closely with the DMCC free zone on a number of matters including key employment matters and documentation.
  • Assisted the University of Birmingham with the incorporation of its Dubai campus and advised on all associated HR matters, including continuing to assist the University with this helpline.

Squire Patton Boggs

Squire Patton Boggs has strong cross-border capabilities with in-depth sector knowledge in the following sectors: insurance, media, financial services, recruitment, technology, defence and aerospace. The team has significant experience assisting with managing workplace investigations, particularly dealing with and preventing sexual harassment. Sarah Lawrence heads the practice and is 'practical' and 'extremely responsive'. Clients praise the team for its 'commercial acumen' and 'great service'.

Practice head(s):

Sarah Lawrence

Testimonials

‘Excellent commercial acumen and practical approach.’

‘Provides a great service, very personable, global presence, easy to deal with, feel like we are a priority for them and we can rely on them to provide good commercial advice.’

‘Sarah Lawrence – highly responsive; seamless service between jurisdictions; great client relationship manager; provides succinct advice which is easily understandable by those outside of legal; adaptable to our needs; in depth knowledge of the business in short timescales. I would highly recommend Sarah.’

‘The Squire Patton Boggs employment team has an in depth knowledge of employment laws in the region. They set themselves apart from their competitors by not just knowing the law but delivering timely, cost effective and practical advice. I have found their advice to be much more practical and cost effective than their peers. I would not hesitate to recommend the Squire Patton Boggs employment team to my peers. ’

‘Sarah Lawrence is extremely responsive and an absolute pleasure to work with. Sarah’s advice is always very practical and solutions focused rather than just reiterating the law as some of her competitors do. Sarah has become a trusted advisor on complex Middle East employment issues and knowing she is always on hand to assist, makes my job much easier. ’

Key clients

AXA Insurance (Gulf) BDC

Bacardi Plc

The Boeing Company

CDM Smith Inc.

Collins Aerospace Inc. (formerly Rockwell Collins Inc.)

Live Nation/Ticketmaster

Michael Page/Page Group

Turner Broadcasting/CNN

Work highlights

  • Acted for Tibco Software Inc in successfully defending high-value employment litigation proceedings up to the highest court in the UAE (Court of Cassation) involving a claim for arbitrary dismissal and alleged unpaid commission payments of significant value.
  • Assisting Time Warner (Turner Broadcasting and CNN ) with strategic and legal counsel across several Middle Eastern jurisdictions.
  • 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 and several multi-jurisdictional employment projects across EMEA, APAC and Central and South America.

Stephenson Harwood

Stephenson Harwood's employment and pensions practice has 'in-depth knowledge' of the UAE and wider Middle East markets. The practice covers all areas of contentious and non-contentious UAE employment law, DIFC/ADGM employment law and free zone regulations. Key areas of strength include employee benefits and incentives, pensions, data protection and privacy. The 'extremely experienced' Kiersten Lucas leads the team and is supported by  senior associate Emily Aryeetey. Associate Laura Anderson is also a key individual in the team.

Practice head(s):

Kiersten Lucas

Other key lawyers:

Emily Aryeetey; Laura Anderson

Testimonials

‘Unlike many other firms in the Middle East region, their team is fully dedicated to dealing with specific employment, pensions and incentives work as well as wider employment-related services such as data protection. This shows by their in-depth knowledge that each team member has of the legal issues within UAE and wider markets in the Middle East.’

‘Kiersten Lucas always impresses when it comes to legal issues relating to employment, pensions and incentives, and providing practical, bespoke advice that meets our commercial needs. She leads by example and that really shows by the highly talented members she recruits within her team (including Emily Aryeetey and Laura Anderson).’

‘Kiersten Lucas is constantly one step ahead of the game. This is clearly demonstrated by how much of a leading authority she is in relation to new legal developments such as the DIFC DEWS Scheme, new discrimination provisions, additional paternity and maternity rights, settlement agreements and changes to the penalty regime under DIFC Employment Law, Law No. 2 of 2019. I constantly see her providing training to other lawyers and HR practitioners in the region on such issues with the DIFC Training Academy.’

‘I always feel that Senior Partner Kiersten Lucas takes an interest in us as individuals as well as a firm. She has a genuine interest in not only the success of our firm but spends time getting to know us on a personal level’

‘The team stands out because it harnesses years of experience and recognition in the UK with a long-standing presence in Dubai. The team is equally adept at handling DIFC and onshore litigation. They have a number of fluent Arabic lawyers within the team. Kiersten Lucas is an extremely experienced partner and also a published author in the burgeoning area of employee competition.’

‘Emily Aryeetey is a highly trusted advisor to a raft of leading businesses in the region.

Strengths: A great all-rounder firm; able to combine advisory work with heavy litigation. Key capabilities: Standout HR experience combined with the language / local cultural expertise of a number of their associates.’

‘Kiersten Lucas – miles ahead of the field in terms of experience and technical knowledge. She has literally written the book on employee competition (with Selwyn Bloch QC and Kate Brearley).’

Emily Aryeetey – a rising star. Extremely confident and capable advisor. Able to explain very complicated legal terms in straight-forward, practical and common-sense speak.’

Key clients

Atlas Mara Banking Group

Bank of China

Access Hire

Al Tayer Group

TMF Group

Al Dahra Group

Range Developments Group

Edenhurst Capital

AES International

LGT Group

Property Finder

Sentinel Commodities DMCC

Axiom SL Group, Inc

ADNOC

Mizuho Banking Group

Cigna Insurance Middle East

LOC Group (London Offshore Consultants)

Accord Healthcare MENA

Marsh Emirates Insurance Brokerage

Aggreko

Hanover Communications

Cleartrip

Robert Walters

Tricon International

M&C Saatchi

Hamburg Sud

Work highlights

  • Acting for Atlas Mara Banking Group in the successful defence of a high-value and high-stakes DIFC Court of Appeal action brought by its former CEO, which also established important precedents on key aspects of the DIFC employment and contract laws.
  • Advising TMF Group on the creation of a master trust structure, one of the first-of-its-kind for the provision of quasi-pension savings for companies who wish to adopt an alternative to the DIFC DEWS product.
  • Advising Al Dahra Holdings on the employment law elements relating to a high-profile M&A transaction whereby ADQ (formerly Abu Dhabi Development Holding Company) acquired a 50% interest in Al Dahra Holding.

DWF Middle East LLP

DWF Middle East LLP has an 'incredibly thorough and knowledgeable' practice with significant experience of the employment laws and practices of the UAE, DIFC and ADGM. The team handles local employment disputes and, on the non-contentious side, assists with drafting employment documentation and workplace investigations. Since research concluded Shiraz Sethi, Thenji Moyo and Ali Al-Assaad have left the firm.

Practice head(s):

Thenji Moyo

Other key lawyers:

Ali Al-Assaad

Testimonials

‘DWF have been our long term external council on several matters, including Employment Law here in the UAE. They are incredibly thorough and knowledgeable in their respective fields – including the delivery of their respective opinions.’

‘Openness, honesty and realistic – 3 characteristics which I highly appreciate.

Key clients

MTN (Dubai) Limited

Rotana Hotel Management Corporation PJSC

ABB Industries

Egon Zehnder International Limited

Help AG Middle East

Dubai International Financial Centre Authority (DIFCA)

Moelis & Company

Sharp Middle East

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre

Tradition (Dubai) Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised MTN (Dubai) on a range of employment-related matters.
  • Advised Rotana Hotel Management Corporation PJSC on employment issues related to Covid-19 and provided strategic advice for all 40 of its hotels across the UAE and KSA.
  • Assisted ABB with cross-jurisdictional legal advice within the GCC in relation to data privacy and on-boarding.

Habib Al Mulla & Partners, a member firm of Baker & McKenzie International

Habib Al Mulla & Partners, a member firm of Baker & McKenzie International handles non-contentious and contentious matters relating to employment and immigration law in the UAE and wider Middle East region. The team advises on corporate transactions and assists clients with workforce reductions, restructuring and compliance. In addition, the practice has an active presence before the local, DIFC and ADGM courts. Joanna Matthews-Taylor was promoted to partner in July 2020. Mohamed El Khatib has extensive dispute resolution experience.

Practice head(s):

Joanna Matthews-Taylor; Mohamed El Khatib

K&L Gates

K&L Gates provides a full-service labour and employment practice in both contentious and non-contentious matters in the Middle East and North Africa region. The team regularly advise on compliance with the local employment regime, employment contracts, termination and redundancies. On the contentious side, the practice advises on matters from restrictive covenants and arbitrary dismissal, through to discrimination and unpaid dues. Practice head Nazanin Aleyaseen has significant experience handling cases before the DIFC courts.

Practice head(s):

Nazanin Aleyaseen

Other key lawyers:

Mohammed Rwashdeh

Key clients

Amadeus IT System SA

Work highlights

  • Advising 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 and more.

Bird & Bird

Bird & Bird has particular expertise in advising on employment issues at the nexus with data privacy issues, and also has significant dispute resolution experience. Its workload includes advice on employment contracts, dismissals, restrictive covenants and workplace investigations. Johannes Eisser primarily advises employers and is very 'detail oriented'. Senior associate Surabhi Singhi is also noted.

Practice head(s):

Johannes Eisser

Other key lawyers:

Surabhi Singhi

Testimonials

‘The practice was on top of all issues in connection with the labor related matters, and has shown in-depth experience while treating the matter at hand.’

‘The team was very proactive, and showed professionalism and seriousness.’

‘Very proactive and knowledgeable.’

‘Dr. Johanness Eisser is very detail oriented and on top of his team and work. He is knowledgeable in several areas in the law.’

‘Very practical, excellent knowledge of visa/employment issues in the region and how best to structure arrangements.’

‘Surabhi Singhi, associate, is our main contact and she is our go to person in employment as she has a very quick grasp on how best to structure employment arrangements.’

Key clients

Pfizer Inc

Asics Middle East Holding BV

Rackspace Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Pfizer on employment and data privacy issues arising in relation with a global restructuring of the company’s Upjohn generic-drug business to spin-off and merge with Mylan, which involved share/assets transfers in a number of Middle East countries.
  • Advised Asics on pre-litigation mediation in respect of an employment claim raised by a former officeholder in its Dubai entity.
  • Advised Rackspace on several employment matters, including the review of agreements and arrangements with manpower services companies and advising on the implications of employees working for the company’s customers and potential secondment arrangements and its legality in the UAE.

Dentons

Dentons has a broad client offering that includes advice on employment contracts and handbooks, internal regulatory investigations and employee terminations. Catherine Beckett has a wide range of expertise, as well as a strong background in corporate and commercial law. Senior legal consultant Shiraz Sethi, who has joined as the regional head of employment, and legal director Ali Al Assaad were new arrivals in 2021.

Practice head(s):

Shiraz Sethi

Other key lawyers:

Catherine Beckett; Ali Al Assaad

Key clients

Wizz Air

Arbuthnot Latham

Delta Partners Group

KCI

Copperleaf Technologies

KPS Partners

GoGo

Kraft Heinz

Children’s National Health System

Rackspace

Work highlights

  • Advising Wizz Air on its initial entry into the Middle East, assisting with all employment matters related to the establishment of its first overseas hub, including employment contract and policy arrangements for the on-boarding of over 100 new staff, including pilots, aircrew and ground staff.
  • Advised GoGo on employee furloughs in the context of Covid-19.
  • Advised Arbuthnot Latham on major employment projects including tailoring its 100+ page UK HR handbook for DIFC usage and advising on the new DIFC employee workplace savings scheme introduced in the DIFC, and its effect on the status of end of service gratuity.

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP advises on contentious and non-contentious matters concerning employment and has strong cross-border capabilities. The team advises on a range of matters from travel bans and visa cancellations, to employment termination and transfers. Benjamin Hopps is 'client-focused and efficient'; he jointly leads the team with co-head Stuart Paterson, who also leads the dispute resolution team and has a substantial employment litigation practice.

Practice head(s):

Benjamin Hopps; Stuart Paterson

Testimonials

‘This team provides commercial advice, particularly in contentious contexts, that balances the local law with practical business outcomes.’

‘Benjamin Hopps is client-focused and efficient, drafting neat and timely solutions that focus on solving problems.’

Key clients

Toll Global Forwarding

Fieldcore Services

Oliver Wyman

Uber

Jefferies

Mizuho Gulf Capital Partners

Work highlights

  • Acting for Jefferies LLC in a high-profile and multi-jurisdictional poaching dispute.

PwC Legal Middle East

PwC Legal Middle East's employment and immigration practice has considerable experience handling multi-jurisdictional work. Key sectors of focus include technology, FMCG, financial services and energy. Senior manager Natalie Jones, who delivers 'practical solutions to clients', joined the firm in July 2020 from Al Tamimi & Company.

Practice head(s):

Natalie Jones

Testimonials

‘I have worked closely with Natalie Jones. Natalie is an amazing legal partner to work with. She understands the needs of her stakeholder very quickly and gives practical solutions. She is always ready to take my call and give me answers. One thing I love the most about her is that she makes law easy to be understood by everyone! I cannot recommend her enough.’

Work highlights

  • Successfully represented a client in a senior exit and dealt with a dispute around final payments.
  • Advising on a major restructure of a UAE business and the transfer of employment from one entity to another.
  • Reviewing and revising global template documents.