Emiratisation in the private sector - Understanding the rules
Mita Srinivasan
10X People

Emiratisation in the private sector - Understanding the rules

There’s always been a requirement to hire Emirati Nationals and a vague target that needed to be achieved. Now, private companies with at least 50 employees have to meet their 2 percent Emiratisation target before January 2023 to avoid monthly penalties. Non-compliant companies will have to pay for every Emirati who has not been hired. Sarah Brooks, Managing Director for Fikrah HR helps us navigate these new rules.

As we are all aware along with the new labour law implanted earlier this year there has also be a raft of other changes and requirements too. The major one which you can’t fail to have heard of is the drive for Emiratisation in the private sector.

There’s always been a requirement to hire Emirati Nationals and a very vague target that was needed to be achieved but this year, it’s been ramped up and is being officially enforced with targets being set for the future too, with a target of 10 percent of headcounts in private companies with at least 50 employees being Emirati by 2026.

So let’s break it down.

What’s the low down?

All mainland companies, those in the private sector are required to employ Emirati Nationals with a minimum requirement of 2 percent of their total skilled headcount by 31st December 2022, the new requirement of 4 percent starts on 1st January 2023, and increases annually to achieve the 10 percent target. Currently all private companies with less than 50 skilled people in their employment are exempt from this requirement.

If you are a Freezone company, you are currently exempted from the requirement. Although, you are encouraged to hire Emiratis, there’s currently no target and no penalties.

How is it calculated?

So, let’s say you have a total headcount of 73 skilled employees, and these are those that have a labour card with your company, you have an obligation to employ a minimum of 2 percent of that headcount. This would be a requirement of 1.46 Emirati employees, this is then rounded down to 1 Emirati employee to comply with the requirement, in addition to all currently employed Emirati Nationals, ie if you have any employed earlier in the year, the requirement is an additional 2 percent.

Are there any specific job requirements?

Companies can offer any roles and job titles they choose to Emirati Nationals including the usual requirements around working days, hours, shifts, locations etc etc.

However, its best to keep in mind that Emirati Nationals will not just take any job, there are still many positions and careers that they are not interested in. Its best to remember some key expectations before you offer a job to an Emirati:

  • They have a strong sense of work life balance

  • They need specific job descriptions

  • They need clear expectations in regard to the tasks for the role

  • They appreciate flexible working (but be clear with them on timekeeping, targets etc)

Remember to be considerate with your positions there may well be some cultural boundaries to the company or work that you are asking an Emirati National to perform. This is where clarity on tasks, specific job requirements and details are key during the hiring process.

Due to the nature of sourcing good candidates, make your recruitment ‘purposeful’ and if there was ever a time to enlist the services of a professional recruitment agency, its now and to fill this requirement.

What is the Nafis system?

The Nafis system is a portal set up by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) to support all Emirati Nationals and Private companies alike. It is free for all to register and really straightforward.

As a company you can post job vacancies for free and receive applications from registered Emirati nationals. You can track and update the applications through the system including if the candidate attends interviews or not, is offered a position and either accepts or declines it.

It offers support to Emiratis so we strongly recommend that this information is provided to candidates but not included in any formal or legal documentation from the company since it is not the responsibility, decision or discretion of the company whether the candidate applies for or receives such payments.

Anecdotally, we have heard that companies are attempting to ‘recover’ these payment amounts from the individuals to ‘reduce’ their payroll costs. This is highly unethical and not recommended at all.


You will have hopefully seen the information in the press about this as the Ministry for Human Resources & Emiratisation (MOHRE) have been pretty forthcoming about the penalties. If you don’t comply with the requirement your business will be ‘charged’ 6,000AED per month, per Emirati you haven’t employed.

Many companies have hired individuals more commonly known as “Sleeping” or “Ghost” Emirati Nationals. Where a minimum salary is paid, they are registered and have no requirement to attend work etc. These have always been unacceptable to MOHRE and they have now begun to crack down on such arrangements and companies that have them.

Remember to make sure your newly hired Emirati National talents are registered with MOHRE as your employee within 15 days of being hired. Your PRO or the Tashjeel offices can support you with this requirement. Don’t forget the Social Security payments that are needed as part of hiring your Emirati National talents and make sure they are paid and its budgeted for the year to come too.