A risk-based approach to managing employee fraud and malpractice
With the UAE government recently announcing the roll out of the Sinopharm Chinese COVID-19 vaccine to all citizens and residents, and the Emirate of Dubai rolling the first phase of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the public sector is taking measures to ensure the safety and protection of its employees by encouraging individuals to take the vaccine and mandating PCR testing requirements for those who have not been vaccinated. In this article, we examine the latest requirements issued by the UAE government and consider the practical implications on employers and employees.
On 31 December 2020 the Abu Dhabi Department of Government Support issued Circular No. 16 of 2020 to all government entities and companies in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi requiring the following measures to be taken:
The above requirements came into force on 10 January 2020.
Following the above, Federal Circular No. 2 of 2021 was issued on the 5 January 2021, which was subsequently amended by Circular No. 3 of 2021 issued on 18 January 2021 (Circular) by the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources. The Circular implements new procedures which must be followed at federal ministries. The Circular imposes requirements on the following groups:
The Circular mandates employees of Government Ministries & other Federal entities who have not yet taken the COVID-19 vaccine to undertake a COVID-19 Nasal Swab Test (PCR) once every 7 days, the cost of which is to be borne by the employee. Employees who are unable to take the COVID-19 vaccine due to a medical condition, as certified by a medical report, will not have to bear the cost of the PCR test. Employees who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are exempt from such requirement.
Outsourcing and public services companies who have contracted with and provide their services to Federal Government entities are required to mandate their employees, who are currently attending or will be attending a Federal Government entity’s workplace on a daily basis, to undertake a PCR test once every 7 days, at the cost of the employer company. Such employees who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are exempt from such requirement.
In instances where employees of advisory service companies & consultant firms, who have contracted with Federal Government entities to provide services, are required to visit such Federal Government’s workplace for the purpose of providing such services, the Circular mandates such Government entities to require these employees to present a negative PCR test taken within a period of 3 days prior to such visit. Those employees who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are exempt from such requirement.
The Circular urges all Federal Ministries and entities to encourage their employees to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, where possible, and requires adherence to the above requirements from 24 January 2021.
Whilst the above circulars do not affect the entire UAE workforce, they do give rise to many considerations, issues and questions which employers and employees will face from a practical and ethical viewpoint in the coming weeks and months; including:
While there is currently no government requirement for private sector companies to require COVID-19 testing or encouragement of taking the COVID-19 vaccination, the above measures will have a direct impact on those companies who have a contract in place with government entities to provide services for such entities, and employers should stay abreast of government guidance to ensure that they are following the latest development.
We are likely to see rapid changes in the coming months, and a greater worldwide push to be vaccinated. More locally, given that the Sinopharm Chinese vaccine is widely available, and it is likely that there will be greater availability of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the coming months. Many UAE employers will undoubtedly also wish to encourage their workforce to take the vaccine, in order to allow a gradual return to normal business practices without further interruptions and risks associated with operating a business during COVID-19 times. However, employers should take regard of the factors highlighted above in considering their course of action.