The youth of a nation are considered to be the future of the nation and therefore it is essential to guide them in the right directions and protect them from exploitation during work. Work according to the law1 is defined as human effort, be it intellectual, technical or physical, exercised in exchange for a salary that can be permanent or temporary. Federal law no. 8 of 1980 on the regulation of labor relations (hereinafter referred to as ‘the law’) provides special provisions for the nation’s youth. Article 20 to article 26 of the law refers to the regulation of the employment conditions of a young person and this article evaluates and discusses it.

First of all, it is important to understand who falls under the definition of the term ‘youth’. The term is not defined in this law and therefore the general meaning of the term should be investigated. In general terms, the term ‘youth’ means the phase of life between childhood and adulthood. The age up to which a person is said to be in infancy is not mentioned, but article 86 of the Federal Law is not. 5 of 1985 relating to the United Arab Emirates State Civil Transactions Law, a person enters the age of discretion at the age of 7 and furthermore article 85 of the same law states that a person in the UAE enters into age of majority at 21 years of age. Therefore, considering the age under 7 years as childhood and the age 21 years and older as adulthood, the age of a young person must be between 7 years and 21 years of age.

This article deals with the regulations governing the employment of young people. Article 20 of the law establishes a minimum age for a young person to be employed, establishing that a young person of any gender must have attained a minimum of 15 years of age to be employed. Therefore, the provisions regulating youth employment are applicable to youth between the ages of 15 and 21. Employing a youth under the age of 15 in the state of the United Arab Emirates would be illegal. Therefore, article 21 of the law provides that the employer must take measures to confirm the age of the young person before employing him. The employer is supposed to keep a personal file for the youth and is required to keep documents proving the youth’s age in it. The following documents must be kept in the youth’s personnel file:

1. Birth certificate or official extract thereof, or age estimation certificate issued by a competent doctor and legalized by the competent health authorities. (for proof and verification of the fact that the youth is of working age)

2. A certificate of health fit for the required work issued by a competent and authenticated physician.

3. A written consent from the youth’s guardian or administrator.

In addition, the law provides for the maintenance of a special register comprising essential information on youth in the workplace by the employer. Such record shall contain information on the youth’s name and age, the full name of the youth’s guardian or trustee, place of residence, date of employment, and the job for which the youth is employed. The date of employment is to confirm that the youth was of working age when employed. The job role of youth must be specified, as youth are only allowed to do jobs that are considered safe for them. Article 24 of the law establishes that the employment of young people in conditions that are dangerous, strenuous or that are detrimental to the health of young people is prohibited. The circumstances and environment that are considered dangerous and harmful to the health of the young person are determined by virtue of a decision issued by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs after consulting the relevant authorities. Here only the physical health of the youth is taken into account, but with the effect of an amendment, the provision for safeguarding the mind and mental health should also be added in the present law, since youth is an age in which the mind prints very quickly and easily and therefore it is essential to keep it away from unethical, immoral and illegal activities.

In addition, the law stipulates the time during which a young person can work in terms of schedules and number of hours. Article 23 states that a young person can only be employed during the day, but this provision is limited to employment in industrial companies. Therefore, there is no restriction on the employment of young people overnight in workplaces other than industrial enterprises. It also establishes that the meaning of the word “night” is a period of at least twelve consecutive hours, including the period between 8 pm and 6 am. Article 25 of the law limits the maximum working day to 6 hours a day for young people. These working hours would also include intervals for rest, meals or prayer. The intervals together must be for a minimum of one hour and can be more than that but never less than that. In addition, the interval or intervals shall be set such that the youth does not work more than four consecutive hours and the youth does not stay in the workplace for more than seven consecutive hours. In addition, the law has also enumerated provisions within itself against charging the youth for overtime or keeping the youth at the workplace after working hours or making the youth work on days off which include Fridays and holidays. .

Sometimes it is necessary for developmental and rehabilitation purposes that the youth be forced to work longer hours or attend work on days off. For such cases, the law establishes a special provision for philanthropic and educational institutions, which may be exempt from the provisions mentioned above if the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs deems it appropriate. This is not a rule, but just a discretionary power of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs which will take into account all necessary facts and circumstances before granting exemptions.

These provisions must be taken into account by employers, their representatives, guardians and youth trustees. Therefore, article 34 of the law establishes that they are and will be partially responsible for the following provisions of the previous law.

1Federal law no. 8 of 1980 on the regulation of labor relations