The UAE government has always been committed to protecting children and safeguarding their rights. Various laws have been enacted to ensure their development and safety, with severe penalties for those who violate these measures. The UAE is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Child Protection and, in 2016, implemented comprehensive legislation to protect children’s rights.
Understanding Child Labor
Child labor refers to the employment of children below the specified age. Although the practice is internationally prohibited, it remains prevalent in many countries. Any activity that deprives a child of their childhood or harms their physical, mental, or moral well-being falls under child labor. Engaging in such activities denies children their liberties and privileges, preventing them from realizing their full potential while restricting their access to a healthy and safe environment.
Fortunately, child labor is expressly prohibited by law in the UAE.
Key Legal Provisions
According to the Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, also known as the Labour Code, employing children below the age of 15 is strictly prohibited [Article 5(1)]. However, the Labour Code permits the employment of juveniles, aged between 15 and 18, under specific circumstances [Article 5(2)]:
- The employer must obtain written consent from the custodian or guardian of the juvenile.
- The juvenile’s health must be certified as fit for the designated work.
- Working hours must not exceed 6 hours per day, with adequate breaks.
- The juvenile must not work from 7 PM to 7 AM.
- The juvenile must not be engaged in dangerous or arduous work that jeopardizes their health, safety, or morals.
- Overtime work during weekends and official holidays is prohibited.
While the Crimes and Penalties Law does not explicitly mention punishment for child labor, Articles 400 and 401 address situations where a child’s life may be endangered by another person. Endangering the life of a child under 15 may result in imprisonment for up to 2 years. If the child is below 7 years of age, the punishment can include imprisonment or a fine of up to AED 10,000.
For example, employing a child to handle explosives or fireworks would directly endanger their life, and the perpetrator would be subject to appropriate punishment.
Federal Law No. 3 of 2016, commonly referred to as Wadeema’s Law, is a highly influential legislation that comprehensively outlines children’s rights in the UAE. This law grants fundamental rights to children, such as the right to life, nationality, and parentage. According to Article 1, a child is defined as an individual under the age of 18.
Article 14 of Wadeema’s Law, included within the Chapter of Fundamental Rights, prohibits the following:
- Employment of children under 15 years of age.
- Economic exploitation and employing children in hazardous work.
Furthermore, Article 38(2) protects children from illegal and exploitative labor conditions.
Anyone found in violation of these provisions may face imprisonment, fines, or both. The minimum fine for such violations is AED 20,000. If the nature of the work damages the child’s physical, mental, or moral integrity, it will be considered an aggravating circumstance.
The UAE is committed to the well-being and rights of children, and child labor is strictly prohibited by law. The various legal provisions and penalties demonstrate the UAE’s dedication to eradicating child labor and ensuring children grow up in a safe and nurturing environment.
Click here to learn more about Garrity Traina’s commitment to creating a better future for children and supporting efforts to eliminate child labor.
The above information may not apply to non-Muslim individuals. As of February 1, 2023, the UAE has issued specific family laws applicable to non-Muslim expatriate residents who choose not to apply their home country’s laws in the UAE. For more information about this law, please refer to the provided link.