Salaries in Dubai are not always transparent, so there are some things you need to be very aware of. When looking at recruitment sites such as Gulf Talent and Bayt.com, you will notice that salaries are seldom mentioned. Even when a salary is mentioned, without a full discussion with the human resources officer, it is not always clear what that salary includes and/or covers. So, the more information you have about the salary game in Dubai, the better equipped you are to secure the position you want with an adequate salary.
It is possible to get information on employment matters from the labor law website
This information is not always clear, but at least there is a set of guidelines now to help employers and employees clarify expectations and sort out disputes.
The labor law does not mention a basic salary, but anyone on a salary of less than AED4K a month is not eligible to sponsor their family in the UAE. This is an indicator that a salary this low is not sufficient to maintain a family in the UAE.
While many people expect they will be well recompensed for their work in Dubai, the days of the substantial expat packages are a thing of the past in many lines of work. An expat package will have the basic salary, a gratuity of one months pay a year, children’s education either partially or completely covered, medical insurance for all the family, airfares and comfortable accommodation. But, these days, this type of package is rare. So when considering an offer you need to know a lot more than how the monthly salary is broken down and what it covers.
There used to be a big difference between the salaries and packages of schools and tertiary institutions, but this is not necessarily so these days.
For example, the big employers in higher education, the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and Zayed University (ZU) used to provide a package including a reasonable monthly salary calculated on qualifications and experience, guaranteed annual increments, good housing, a furniture allowance of AED 30K, annual tickets for the family and health insurance. The furniture allowance has gone, and the employees have to find their own housing now although this is factored into salaries. In addition, salaries seem to have shrunk. An experienced business teacher, a former employee, was taken back on after a year away, but at a reduced salary.
Some, but not all private schools offer good salaries that are competitive with the tertiary institutions, so it is necessary to look around.
In the business world, the salary is made up of a basic salary, which is supplemented with additional allowances that may include transport and accommodation. As accommodation is very expensive in Dubai, it can be a shock for newcomers when they see what it will cost to rent an apartment or villa and just what they get for their dirhams.
In addition, some business jobs include commissions and bonuses, which can substantially increase annual take home pay. However, it is essential to have this written clearly into the contract. A vague reference to a bonus is an opportunity for an employer to oversell expectations and under-deliver when the time comes to pay out.
A gratuity is a requirement of the labor laws, and is set at 21 days pay per year employed for the first five years increasing to 30 days after that. It is calculated on wages including commissions but not on allowances and bonuses. This is probably why salaries are made up of a basic salary and allowances as, since in reality it is the basic salary that the gratuity is calculated on, it saves the employer money. It can be paid annually or at the end of the contract. However, if it is paid at the end of the contract, you have no opportunity to earn interest on that money.
Probation periods are common in the UAE. They can be from three to six months. The probation period should be stipulated in the contract. During the probation period both the employer and the employee can choose to terminate the contract without having to give a reason. Of course, no end of service benefits will be paid if the contract is terminated during this time.
Maternity leave is available being 45 days paid leave, some companies will add annual leave to this and even offer additional unpaid leave on request.
Repatriation is on the basis of the original contract. So, if your employee paid to bring you and your family to Dubai, at the end of the contract, you will be repatriated in the same way. If the transportation of your furniture was paid for then the employer must also pay to send it back. However, few companies or institutions pay to bring furniture to the UAE.
An annual ticket is part of many jobs in the business world. If it is not offered to you, bring this to the table yourself. Do not assume that because you have been offered an annual return ticket home each year that this will be provided for your family as well; this is another thing to watch out for.
Also, there are two types of annual tickets, those that can be converted into cash and those that cannot. Some employers try to save money by insisting on purchasing the most inexpensive tickets perhaps on airlines you would not choose to fly with.
Hours of Work
Generally, weekly hours are a minimum of 48 or 8X6. Many companies have agreed to staff working extra hours each day so that they only have to do a five-day working week. Some expect a five and a half day working week. Because of extreme traffic congestion at peak times, there has been a lot of talk about staggered work and school hours. So as with many things in the UAE, there are changes ahead. During the Holy Month of Ramadan working hours are reduced to six a day, but there is no eating or drinking in that time and no lunch break, of course.
What Can You Expect to Earn
It is very difficult to discuss specific salaries because each salary is made up of a basic salary and allowances (discussed above) but here are a few examples.
A taxi driver only earns about AED 2.5K and has to source his own accommodation. A university professor with an MA is likely to be on AED15-20K depending on experience and subject taught. A schoolteacher could be paid AED10-16K. Usually, these professionals are offered accommodation or an allowance on top of the salaries.
In the business world a new graduate could expect AED 9K to start. An experienced person working as a brand manager might be offered AED25K but that includes an accommodation allowance. Big salaries can be earned in the financial field.
The best tip is to consider negotiating when you are offered a contract. Check what is included in the offer. Consider the cost of housing, schooling and health insurance. But keep in mind that once you are here, you are in a good position to change up should a better offer come you way.
Before jumping ship, you need to be sure that you will not be hit with a ban if you want to change jobs. It used to be a real problem as banning was legal. In a way, it kept salaries down as you could be banned from working in a similar field for six months, so people were reluctant to risk it. Now, if you have higher education, you are less likely to be subjected to a ban.