The UAE government has always been upfront about the protection of children and their rights. Provisions ensuring their development and safety are scattered in various legislations, and impose heavy penalties and punishments on those who violate these measures. The UAE is also party to the United Nations Convention on Child Protection, and in 2016, enacted a comprehensive legislation on protecting the children and safeguarding their rights.
Child Labour: Employment of children less than the specified age is considered as child labour. Despite the practice being prohibited at the international level, it is widely prevalent in most countries. Any activity depriving a child of his/her childhood or harming his/her physical, mental or moral well-being will fall under child labour. When a child is exposed to such activities, he is denied several liberties and privileges, and is rendered incapable of meeting his abilities to the full potential, along with being restricted from growing up in a healthy and safe environment.
Child labor in the UAE is expressly prohibited under the law.
- Labour Code
As per Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, that is the Labour Code, employment of a child who is below the age of 15 is prohibited [Article 5(1)].
The Labour Code, however, allows the employment of juveniles, that is, children between 15 and 18 years of age, under specific circumstances [Article 5(2)]:
a. The employer has obtained a written consent of the custodian or guardian of the juvenile
b. It is certified that the health of the juvenile is fit for the designated work
c. The working hours do not exceed 6 hours per day with adequate breaks in between
d. The juvenile is not employed from 7 PM to 7 AM
e. The juvenile is not employed in dangerous or arduous works that affect his health, safety or morals
f. He is not employed for overtime during weekends and official holidays
- Penal Code
The Crimes and Penalties Law does not mention the punishment for child labour in particular, but Articles 400 and 401 mention instances where the life of a child may be endangered by another person. If a child is under 15 years of age, then endangering his life will amount to imprisonment not more than 2 years, and if a child is under 7 years of age then the punishment may either be imprisonment or a fine up to AED 10,000.
For example, if a person employs a child in carrying out work related to explosives and fireworks, it will directly endanger his life and the perpetrator will be liable to the prescribed punishment.
- Wadeema's Law
Perhaps the most influential legislation with regard to children, Federal Law No. 3 of 2016, also known as Wadeema's Law, lays down extensive rights afforded to children in the country, in almost all aspects. The law grants certain fundamental rights to children, such as the right to life, nationality, parentage etc. As per Article 1, a child is deemed as anyone under the age of 18 years.
Article 14 of the law, which is also included in the Chapter of Fundamental Rights, prohibits the following:
a. Employment of a child of less than 15 years of age
b. Economic exploitation and employment of a child in works exposing him to risk
Further, Article 38(2) protects children from child labour under illegal conditions.
A person in contravention of these Articles will be imprisoned or fined, or both. The fine in this case will not be less than AED 20,000. If it is found that the kind of work in which the child is involved is such that it damages his physical, mental or moral integrity, it will be considered as aggravating circumstances.
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.