19 Jan 2021

The UAE legislator’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic

Authored by: Sayed Abdul Rahman

In Brief

  • The UAE government and legislators have implemented a range of measures to safeguard the UAE during the pandemic.
  • Measures have been taken to support business and society in a meaningful and effective fashion.
  • Laws and regulations have been taken in many fields, including employment, criminal justice and bankruptcy.

The UAE legislator has implemented a range of measures to safeguard the UAE during the global pandemic. These laws and regulations affect employment, criminal justice, bankruptcy, governmental regulation and social responsibility. In its response to this global disaster, the laws and decisions issued by the UAE legislator have made a positive impact in assisting the country through the pandemic and thereby substantially reducing negative impact.

The first decision put into place by the UAE legislator was Ministerial Decision No. 279 of 2020. This was not only a message of reassurance to both employers and employees in the private sector but provided protection for employers while also safeguarding the rights of employees and therefore business and society as a whole. It included provisions to ensure appropriate working conditions in order to preserve the wellbeing of the people during this crisis.

At the criminal level, the Attorney General of the UAE issued Resolution No. 38 of 2020 governing fines which would be applied to violators of preventive measures. This has ensured strict compliance with measures applied during the pandemic.

In the business sector the UAE legislature issued Federal Law No. 21 of 2020 on the amendment of some provisions of the Bankruptcy Law No. 9 of 2016 which introduced certain flexibility in terms of bankruptcy law.  It is aimed at striking a balance between the rights of creditors and the protection of owners of troubled companies affected by the crisis, without prejudice to the rights of any party. The legislator was keen to provide appropriate support to the owners of distressed companies who has made a request to restructure their debts. The objective was to enable the return of normal business in relevant situations. These amendments contain elements which protect the owners of insolvent companies from legal precautionary or executory enforcement action. The amended law prohibits taking legal action against companies affected as a result of this crisis immediately after a request is made to the courts to reschedule their debts following acceptance of the court of such application.

In relation to government departments, the Judicial Department in Abu Dhabi issued additional decisions, including Resolution No. 14 of 2020 on misdemeanours which are not punishable by a fine. The purpose of this decision was to avoid arrests for minor offences ordinarily punishable by a fine. The UAE legislature also issued Resolution No. 30 of 2020 on the postponement of judicial hearings and remote working in addition to Resolution No. 12 of 2020 which allowed for the postponement of bail cases and further allowed for the release of some prisoners, save for prisoners who were imprisoned for other serious pending offences. The Federal Supreme Council of the Judiciary also issued Resolution No. 4 of 2020 regarding the organisation and implementation of measures relating to working in court premises during this pandemic.

On a social level, the Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure issued Decision No. 10 of 2020, which prevented utility companies from disconnecting water and electricity services from consumers. Secondly, the Department of Economic Development issued Decision No. 92 of 2020 regarding the return of 20% of the rental value to the hospitality, tourism and entertainment sector in Abu Dhabi, with the aim of assisting in relation to activities that were halted due to the pandemic.

These laws and decisions have had a very positive impact in supporting the UAE’s business sector. The UAE’s institutions operated in a unified manner according to strategic and harmonious policies. This has allowed businesses and their customers to operate transactions effectively before governmental departments and has controlled financial loses, to the extent practicable.

Finally, we must not neglect to mention that the UAE’s battle against the pandemic has been greatly supported by the healthcare sector, which has been courageous and effective throughout.