United Arab Emirates: DIFC Small Claims Court: A Practical Alternative For Resolving Employment Cases

Last Updated: 23 October 2017
Article by Rebecca Ford

The DIFC Small Claims Tribunal is becoming a popular alternative due to its speed, privacy and lower costs. This article will examine the reasons the DIFC Small Claims Tribunal is becoming the forum of choice for the resolution of employment disputes, and how to handle a claim raised in the Tribunal.

In recently published figures, the DIFC Small Claims Tribunal (the Tribunal) reported that for the period January – June, the number of cases commenced in the Tribunal rose from 79 in 2016 to 150 in 2017.  It is likely that a large proportion of those cases will relate to employment disputes.

What Type of Employment Disputes can be brought to the Tribunal?

The Tribunal was established in 2007, and aims to give parties in dispute swift and efficient access to justice, often without legal representation at the court hearings.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear and determine claims within the jurisdiction of the DIFC Court where the amount or value of the claim does not exceed AED500,000, or, in the case of employment disputes, where the claim exceeds AED500,000 and all of the parties to the claim have elected in writing for it to be heard by the Tribunal.  Different rules apply to commercial disputes which are not the subject of this article.

Whilst the Tribunal is an "opt in" jurisdiction, allowing parties to commercial disputes arising outside of the DIFC to choose to adopt the DIFC jurisdiction, this remains problematic for employment disputes which arise from the UAE Law No. 8 of 1980, as amended (the Labour Law), which provides that the Labour Court has jurisdiction to hear any claim.

Why is the Tribunal popular for employment disputes?

There are a number of reasons which make the Tribunal attractive to potential parties of a dispute, the four main ones being:

  1. Conciliation Stage:  Unlike the DIFC Court of First Instance, the Tribunal process divides a dispute into two stages, a conciliation process and then a hearing if the conciliation process fails to achieve a settlement.  However, with almost 90% of Tribunal claims being settled within the first four weeks from commencement of the claim, it appears that the conciliation stage is particularly effective.
  2. Speed:  The litigation timetable is very swift.   The Court has made it relatively easy to commence a claim, and once the claim has been served, a defendant has seven days in which to file a defence.  Thereafter, the Tribunal will seek to list a conciliation hearing quite quickly.  Whilst the speed at which the first stage of the Tribunal litigation is processed can cause problems within a company (for example, it may take a few days for the claim to reach the right person within an organisation, and it may take a while to pull together the relevant documents for a defence), nevertheless it does allow the company to get on with running their business once the claim is dealt with.
  3. Privacy:  The DIFC Court of First Instance is a public forum, in which the pleadings are filed online and the hearings are posted on Youtube.  The Tribunal, on the other hand, is a private forum and judgments are anonymised.
  4. Cost:  The Court fees for commencing a claim are lower in the Tribunal than in the Court of First Instance, and with the parties encouraged to attend the hearings and represent themselves, legal fees are limited (or removed).  However, the Tribunal judge retains the discretion to allow parties to be legally represented where appropriate, and in our experience, parties may want to seek legal advice on the merits and presentation of their claim or defence prior to the conciliation hearing.  In addition, following a final hearing of the claim (where it cannot be settled), the Tribunal does not generally award costs against the losing party, unless, for example, one party has behaved unreasonably.

Complex disputes may be reallocated to the Court of First Instance and in some cases, parties to a potential dispute which exceeds AED500,000 may wish to decline the Tribunal's jurisdiction.

What can I expect of the Tribunal Process?

Briefly, the Tribunal Process is as follows:

  1. Commencement of a claim in the Tribunal is by way of Form 53/01, which is available online or from the DIFC Court Registry. The Claimant should set out the basis for the claim, and provide a summary of the remedy the Claimant is seeking and the reasons why the claimant is entitled to that remedy.  The Claimant should also attach supporting documents – for example, the employment contract.
  2. The Claim will usually be served on the Defendant by the Tribunal.
  3. The Defendant has seven days in which to file and serve a response, either admitting the claim, making an application disputing jurisdiction, or filing a defence.  The defence should contain any parts of the claim which are admitted, as well as setting out the parts which are denied and the reasons why.   The defence should also include any documents on which the Defendant intends to rely.
  4. The Tribunal will then list a conciliation hearing.  This is intended to be an informal hearing, in which the parties explore settlement with the help of the court.  Where settlement is reached, the Tribunal will issue a consent order in which the terms of settlement are issued.
  5. If the claim cannot be settled (the conciliation process may also include a second consultation hearing) the Tribunal judge will instruct the parties on the next steps for a final hearing of the claim.  Directions are likely to include any witness evidence to be submitted, the way in which the witness evidence will be examined, and any documents to be served.
  6. A final hearing of the claim will then take place, before a different Tribunal judge.


Whilst the speed of the process, the lack of transparency (given the private nature of the hearings), and the flexible approach to directions for a final hearing can cause concerns to parties contemplating Tribunal litigation, nevertheless there are many good reasons why parties may choose to bring a claim before the Tribunal rather than the DIFC Court of First Instance.  Ultimately, each forum exists to service different types of cases at an appropriate level (which reflects the differences in speed and cost) and ensures that parties to a dispute enjoy access to justice.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.