Youth of a nation is considered to be the future of the nation and therefore it is essential to guide them in the right directions and protect them from exploitation during work. Work according to law1 is defined as the human effort whether intellectual, technical or physical, exerted in return for a wage it may be permanent or temporary in nature. The federal law no. 8 of 1980 concerning the regulations of labour relations (hereinafter known as ‘the law’) provides for special provisions for the youth of the nation. Article 20 to article 26 of the law pertains to regulating the employment conditions of a youth and the present article evaluates and discusses the same.
First, it is important to understand who all come within the definition of the term ‘youth’. The term is not defined in the present law and therefore the general meaning of the term is to be looked into. In general terms, the term ‘youth’ means the phase of life which comes between childhood and adulthood. The age till which a person is said to be in childhood is not mentioned but article 86 of the Federal Law no. 5 of 1985 pertaining to the Civil Transactions Law of the United Arab Emirates State, a person enters the age of discretion at the age of 7 and further article 85 of the same law provides that a person in UAE enters the age of majority at 21 years of age. Therefore considering the age below 7 years as childhood and the age of and above 21 to be adulthood, the age of a youth should be between 7 years and 21 years of age.
The present article deals with the regulating provisions for the employment of the youth. Article 20 of the law provides for a minimum age for a youth to be employed, it provides that a youth of either of the gender must have completed a minimum of 15 years of age for being employed. Hence, the regulating provisions for employment of youth are applicable to youth between the age of 15 years and 21years of age. Employing a youth below the age of 15 years in the United Arab Emirates state would be illegal. Therefore article 21 of the law provides for measures to be taken by an employer to confirm the age of the youth before employing him/her. The employer is supposed to maintain a personal file for the youth and is under obligation to maintain documents giving proof of the age of the youth therein. The following documents have to be maintained in the personal file of the youth:
1. A birth certificate or an official extract thereof, or an age estimation certificate issued by a pertinent doctor and authenticated by the competent health authorities. (for proof and verification of the fact that the youth is of employable age)
2. A certificate of health fitness for the required job issued by a competent doctor and authenticated.
3. A written consent of the guardian or trustee of the youth.
Further, the law provides for the maintaining a special register comprising essential information about the youth at the work place by the Employer. The said register is to contain information regarding the name and age of the youth, the full name of the guardian or trustee thereof, the place of residence, date of employment and the work for which the youth is employed. The date of employment is to confirm that the youth when employed was of employable age. The work role of the youth needs to be specified as youths are allowed to do work only that is considered to be safe for them. Article 24 of the law provides that employment of youth in hazardous, strenuous or in such conditions that are harmful to the health conditions of the youth is prohibited. The circumstances and environment that are considered to be hazardous and harmful to the health of the youth are determined by virtue of a decision issued by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs upon the consultation of the competent authorities regarding the same. Here only the physical health of the youth is taken into consideration but with effect of an amendment the provision for safeguarding the mind and the mental health should also be added in the present law as youth is an age where the mind imprints very fast and easily and hence it is essential to keep it away from unethical, immoral and illegal activities.
Further, the law provides for the duration for which a youth is allowed to work in terms of timings and number of hours. Article 23 provides that a youth can only be employed during day time but this provision is limited to employment in industrial enterprises. Therefore there is no restriction on employing youth during the night time at work places other than industrial enterprises. It also provides the meaning of the word “night” to be a period of twelve consecutive hours at least including the period from 8 p. m. until 6 a. m. Article 25 of the law limits the maximum working hours to 6 hours per day for youths. These working hours would also include intervals for rest, meals or prayers. The intervals together are to be for a minimum of one hour and can be more than that but never less than that. Also the interval or the intervals are to be set in such a manner that the youth does not work more than four consecutive hours and the youth is not to be kept in the work location for more than seven consecutive hours. Further the law also has enumerated provisions within itself against charging the youth with overtime or retaining him/her at the work place after working hours or making the youth work of rest days which includes Fridays and public holidays.
At times it is necessary for the development and rehabilitation purposes that the youth is made to work for longer hours or to attend work on rest days. For such cases the law provides a special provision for philanthropic and educational institutions, that they may be exempt from the above discussed provisions if the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs thinks fit. This is not a rule but only a discretionary power of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs which shall take all necessary facts and circumstances into consideration before granting any exemptions.