This guide was last updated in August 2016.
Under the legislation, employers are required to provide minimum levels of medical insurance for their employees from an insurance company that is approved by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
The DHA will issue two categories of permit to insurance companies: approved and participating. Approved insurers provide full insurance plans, while participating insurers provide basic plans that are generally taken out for low-paid workers.
The insurance legislation was first applicable to employers with 1,000 or more employees, who have been subject to the rules since October 2014. Companies who employ 100–999 employees were bound by the legislation with effect from July 2015. As of June 2016, the final group of small employers has had to comply with the scheme.
Enforcement is managed through the visa application process when companies sponsor employees for residency in Dubai. Employers are required to provide evidence of complying with the medical insurance regulations and their insurance provider must be registered with the DHA.
Employers who do not comply with the scheme will be fined, with repeat offenders facing maximum fines of AED500,000 (£103,000). The DHA has however confirmed that a six-month grace period will be available to individual sponsors, who are exempt from fines until January 2017.
The Dubai law is not as comprehensive as that in Abu Dhabi, where employers must provide cover for staff and their families. However, it is common practice for companies in Dubai to provide cover for the families of their white-collar employees. It is unusual for lower paid workers to have their families living with them in Dubai because of strict visa rules on the sponsorship of dependents, so the provision of medical insurance for these families is unlikely to be a significant issue.
The introduction of mandatory health insurance has been well received by all stakeholders within Dubai and generally reflects the growing trend around the region of authorities developing laws and regulations around employment protection and benefits.