UAE Payroll Services

At Bradford Jacobs, we navigate the administration of the Emirati payroll system for you. We do the work, so you do not have to.

Emirati Payroll

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) offers enormous potential for foreign companies having an eye on International Expansion into the Middle East. Since forming in 1971, this federation of seven Emirates has grown into the 34th largest economy in the world and third in the region, behind Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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The Emirates has moved forward from a labour-intensive economy towards diversity in tourism, renewable energy, aluminium production, aviation, telecommunications and advanced technologies. World-class airlines such as Etihad and Emirates have added to international prestige.

The country has been ranked in the top 30 globally for business services to multinationals. The World Economic Forum ranked the UAE in the top 30 of the ‘most networked’ nations, ahead of all other Arab countries, Italy, Turkey, and India. The UAE’s magnetism for foreign companies and workers is highlighted by 90% of the population being expatriate workers.

Bradford Jacobs’ will navigate all these potential pitfalls effectively and efficiently thanks to our Professional Employer Organisation (PEO) services. We recruit the staff in-country and then implement our comprehensive knowledge of tax and payroll regulations. As part of our service, Bradford Jacobs files returns and remits associated payments for tax and social security contributions directly from our payroll system to the relevant authorities.

Your new staff members can be up-and-running in days rather than weeks or months to establish a legal entity in the country.

  • Remote payroll – This option allows businesses to operate under a single payroll system, by adding employees in the UAE to your parent company’s payroll. However, these employees must operate under different regulations, which is likely to cause problems.
  • Internal payroll – You may operate payroll for your subsidiary, especially if you are committed to growing your company’s presence in the UAE. However, this does require hiring dedicated HR staff who understand Emirati employment and compliance laws.
  • The UAEs’ payroll processing company – If you are considering outsourcing, then working with a Emirati payroll company will help in processing your payroll – but not when it comes to compliance.
  • The UAEs’ payroll outsourcing – However, there is another option available that solves both concerns – by working with Bradford Jacobs. We can handle payroll and compliance for all your employees in the UAE. We take the administrative stress off your shoulders so you can focus on what you do best.

Most international companies intending to run payroll services in the UAE choose to establish a subsidiary as a separate legal entity. Employers must still deal with the Federal Tax Authority of the Ministry of Finance and the General Pension & Social Security Authority. The responsibility of operating payroll is one element that companies must balance against the opportunities of expanding into the seven Emirates that form the federation of the UAE – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain.

Incoming companies must understand the complexities involved in setting up a subsidiary, which is a legal requirement for being able to operate payroll for their staff. Opening a limited liability company is the most popular option, but restrictions apply. Under the Commercial Companies Law (2015), 51% of shareholding had to be with Emirati nationals, although proposals to remove this requirement were announced in late 2020. Outsourcing payroll services in the UAE will streamline your operations by dealing with the following procedures for onboarding staff:

  • Issuing employees with the standard Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE, formerly Ministry of Labor) job offer letter detailing the terms and conditions of employment.
  • Ensuring employer and employee sign the MOHRE’s official Federal Labor Contract, which should be created in Arabic and English. Free Trade Zones (FTZs) often have their own standard contracts, while some allow employers to issue their own employment contracts.
  • Employers operating ‘onshore’ – i.e., not in an FTZ, need MOHRE approval to change the terms of a contract.
  • Ensuring the employee has the UAE ID card, mandatory for all citizens and residents, and issued by the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP).
  • Registering new employees with the MOHRE and the relevant local authorities once the contract is signed (which is during the visa application process in the case of non-Emiratis).
  • UAE nationals and citizens of the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) must be registered with the GPSSA within one month of starting work.
  • Remitting the employer’s contribution of 12.5% of the employee’s salary to the GPSSA, in addition to the employee’s contribution of 5%, by the 15th following the salary month. Employers in Abu Dhabi remit 15%.
  • Under the Dubai Health Insurance Law, the employer is responsible for ensuring all employees have health insurance that equals or exceeds the minimum benefits required by the Health Authority. Requirements vary in other Emirates.
  • Employers must also plan for the end-of-service gratuity (ESG) payments to staff at the end of their employment, whether through dismissal, retirement or resignation.

Note: There is no social security scheme for expatriates.

In the case of registering non-Emiratis for employment, companies face additional protracted procedures, including:

  • In addition to the MOHRE, employers must also deal with the ICP and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in whichever of the seven Emirates they operate.
  • Before applying for a work permit, the employer must apply to MOHRE for the ‘eSignature’ card for their company.
  • Employers must register the job offer letter with MOHRE before they can apply for a visa for the employee.
  • Pre-approval of the work permit application requires the eSignature card, business license, employee’s photograph and passport with a minimum of six months validity. The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation must authenticate any necessary academic qualifications.
  • Employers must sponsor the prospective employee, satisfying criteria such as educational and professional qualifications and lawful entry into the UAE, that the relevant employment sector does not have suitable Emirati candidates.
  • Quotas apply to the number of non-Emiratis employed, according to MOHRE’s limits and depending on the company’s legal structure, type of operation, and location.
  • MOHRE requires a bank guarantee of AED 3,000 (EUR 784, USD 816) for each sponsored employee
  • Employers face fines of up to AED 20,000 (EUR 5,200, USD 5,445) for false or incomplete data.

The complexity of these procedures highlights why most foreign companies entering the UAE’s employment market hand their payroll services to Employer of Record (EOR) experts such as Bradford Jacobs. By outsourcing payroll, your company complies with employment regulations without risking sanctions or financial penalties for late, incorrect or incomplete registration. You focus on your goals and expansion, free of any concerns over payroll while your staff get to work.

International companies planning to run payroll services in the UAE must establish a legal entity and decide on the best business structure to suit their expansion plans. There are other considerations. The UAE comprises seven states; each may have different rules for setting up a subsidiary. Also, deciding to set up ‘offshore’ in a Free Trade Zone brings different considerations to establishing the entity on the mainland, ‘onshore’.

The Commercial Companies Law (2015) dictated that businesses incorporating onshore had to have 51% shareholding with an Emirati national or entity. Still, proposals to remove these restrictions were announced in late 2020. This brings onshore companies into line with those operating in FTZs, which have always been permitted 100% foreign ownership. Opening a limited liability company is the preferred option for foreign companies establishing an entity in the UAE. Requirements for setting up a subsidiary onshore generally include the following:

  • Registering a unique company name with the Department of Economic Development (DED) and obtaining initial approval for the company.
  • Obtaining special approval from the Ministry of Economy if involved in contracting or industrial activities.
  • Creating a Memorandum of Association, notarised by a public notary in the UAE.
  • Signing and registering an office lease agreement with the relevant local authority.
  • Providing the DED with the corporate documents of the foreign parent company, including passport copies of shareholders, directors, managers, and officers.
  • Obtaining a business license from the relevant DED licensing authority, according to the location.
  • Requires a minimum of two shareholders and no more than 50.
  • The shareholders must appoint at least one director or manager.
  • Opening a corporate bank account.
  • There is no standard federal requirement for share capital, although different Emirates can require between USD 1 and USD 50,000 (EUR 47,750).

Each of the UAE’s seven Emirates has ‘offshore’ Free Trade Zones (FTZs) that can apply varying regulations for taxation, customs and imports. Different criteria affect companies established in an FTZ, generally including such as:

  • ‘Offshore’ location allows 100% foreign ownership.
  • No corporate or income tax for guaranteed 50 years, with 100% repatriation of capital allowed.
  • Exempt from duties on imports into the Zone, but duties apply to goods entering mainland UAE.
  • FTZ companies doing business on the mainland must appoint a UAE-registered distributor ‘onshore’ or establish a branch office in the relevant mainland Emirate.

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