UK: How To Deal With Harassment Claims In The UAE

Last Updated: 29 March 2019
Article by Rebecca Ford and Ben Brown

The issue of harassment and the workplace culture surrounding it has been propelled to the forefront of most Human Resource departments' "to do" list in the past few years, indicating a cultural shift in expectations on behaviour both in and out of the workplace. The public campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have accelerated changing expectations across the globe and workplaces in the UAE are not immune to this. However, given the potential criminal liability certain allegations can bring, senior management of UAE companies are facing unique challenges. This article identifies some of the practical issues to consider when dealing with harassment complaints in the UAE.

How can an employee raise a complaint or concern?

It is at this basic level that companies need to first focus. How do you make sure that people raise issues when they happen? How can you ensure that issues are raised to the right people? There are two factors to focus on:

  • What is your culture? Do people understand there is an expectation to raise issues, and do they have confidence something will be done?
  • Do you have policies/procedures in place which facilitate and signpost how people raise issues? Think about modernising your policies and introducing an over-arching "speak up" policy which can point people in the right direction.

Managing the way in which complaints can be brought forward can assist smaller groups of employees in particular. In the absence of an avenue to raise a complaint, employee grievances can form part of the office conversation and a serious concern can be shared and known amongst employees before HR or management have an opportunity to do anything about it.

What do you do with a complaint or concern, once raised?

It is of course important to ensure that you have a policy which provides you with a framework for managing complaints. However, in addition to the basic framework, you will need to consider additional, more nuanced questions, such as:

  • Is there interaction between the complainant and the accused? Does this need to be changed? For example, should the complainant continue to be managed by the accused, or should there be a change in reporting line? Is it appropriate for the accused to be suspended immediately?
  • What support are you going to give the complainant and the accused throughout the process? Although it is common for companies to consider providing support to the complainant, in many instances it is appropriate to provide this to both parties.
  • What are you going to tell the accused and when? How much information will you give them?

The answers to these questions will vary from case to case. However, it is important to reach a swift decision on these matters, particularly where the facts surrounding the complaint are known within the organisation amongst the general workforce; not only do both parties need to feel supported, but it is important that the company demonstrates its willingness to react promptly and appropriately before its audience of employees.

What do you investigate?

It is necessary to carry out a full, unbiased and open minded investigation into the facts. Additional factors, such as the potential for a criminal complaint, need to be taken into account. The key therefore to this phase is to conduct a fair and thorough investigation, but also to ensure that the Company protects its own position.

The investigation should be undertaken by someone who is (and is seen to be) impartial. For large organisations, it should be possible to find an impartial and independent individual within the organisation itself. However, in smaller firms, or where the allegations are particularly serious, it may be appropriate to bring in someone independent from outside of the company, such as an external law firm.

Ideally, the investigation will consider tangible evidence such as emails or records of discussions. However, in many instances, the complaint may arise from a private or historical conversation. In those instances, you will need to consider what witness evidence is available, and how much witness evidence is appropriate (you don't want to involve the whole office!).

What disciplinary process should be followed?

Assuming that the investigation has found evidence from which concerns remain, the next step should be a formal disciplinary meeting, in order to establish whether to take disciplinary action and, if so, the appropriate level of that sanction.

Under UAE Law No. 8 of 1980, as amended (the 'Labour Law'), a disciplinary sanction can range from a warning or fine, through to dismissal with or without notice. However, a disciplinary sanction may not be imposed without the employer first undertaking a disciplinary process. Under the Labour Law, this involves inviting the employee to a disciplinary meeting in writing, discussing the company concerns at the meeting and giving the employee an opportunity to comment, before adjourning the meeting and investigating any explanation put forward by the employee at the meeting. Following the investigation, the employer may then determine the appropriate sanction to impose (if any) and confirm this to the employee in writing. The entire process should be documented and put on the employee's personnel file. If a company has a disciplinary process which expands upon the statutory minimum outlined here, this should be followed.

The severity of the sanction will depend upon the seriousness of the act.

It is also necessary to consider whether the police should be informed by the company, or indeed whether the complainant has already contacted the police about the complaint. Relevant to this is whether the harassment complained of relates to a woman or to a protected religion, both of which carry criminal liability.

What happens next?

Regardless of the outcome of the investigation and disciplinary process, it is important for all parties to handle matters of confidentiality in a sensitive manner, both within the organisation and externally in the face of potential press coverage.

While settlement agreements have historically played a key part, particularly where confidentiality is to be maintained, in the current climate, a restriction on speaking out may not be appropriate. For example, if the agreement became publicly known, would it look as though the complainant was being silenced or the perpetrator paid off? Any agreement cannot, of course, prevent someone from raising matter with the police in any event if they believe a crime has been committed.

In the light of the problems faced by organisations in dealing with complaints of this type, it is preferable to take proactive steps now, rather than wait for a complaint to arise. For example:

  • Address the issue from the top down and ensure that senior management go on training to understand both the risks involved if things go wrong, as well as the steps they can take now to encourage the right organisational culture.
  • Circulate key policies (including those covering bullying and harassment) and remind staff of a zero tolerance policy against harassment.
  • Think about promoting a grievance policy and means of "speaking up" within the organisation.
  • Carry out an anonymous survey of the organisation's employees to ascertain their views on firm culture.

Given the cultural shift in behaviour globally, awareness of rights, and thus complaints of harassment, are on the rise and employers should act proactively to ensure that they don't become tomorrow's news.

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

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

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions