Monthly Archives: March 2016

Occupational Hazards And Diseases

download (7)The increase in awareness about the rights of people of the working class has led to growth and wide acceptance of the concept of ‘occupational health and safety’ which is required for moral and legal reasons but also for financial reasons. Health and safety of workers in any professions or occupation is essential to increase their efficiency and productivity. Occupational health and safety which is also referred as OHS puts a duty on the Employer to ensure the safety of all employees working for him and associated with his establishment against all occupational hazards. Occupational diseases are the diseases that a worker becomes victim of due to the nature of work that he undertakes. It is a part of the occupational hazards.

Due to the awareness spread against occupational diseases and the efforts of the ILO (International Labor Organization) to protect the workers from such hazards, most countries including United Arab Emirates have drafted laws to protect and provide for safety measures by the Employer for the prevention of occupational diseases. The regulation of labor relations law which is the federal law no. 8 of 1980 (hereinafter known as ‘the law’) has such measures enumerated within itself. The present article discusses the measure that the employer needs to take in order to ensure the safety of the workers from occupational hazards and diseases and the responsibilities of the Employer towards a worker in case the worker is diagnosed of an occupational disease.

As a part of the safety measures against occupational diseases the law creates a duty on the employer to provide the workers with adequate protection means against the hazards of occupational injuries and diseases that may take place during the work. The measures are as listed below:

1. The first measure that the Employer is supposed to take is regarding awareness. The workers should be made aware about the occupational hazards and diseases that he is exposed to during work. The Employer must at a prominent place of the work site display detailed directions related to the measures taken for the prevention of fire and the protection of workers from the hazards that they may face during their performance of their work. Such instructions shall appear in Arabic language and in other languages that the workers understand as it is necessary that all the workers should understand the instructions.

2. The Employer is under duty to appoint physicians for a complete health checkup and to examine for the symptoms of occupational diseases every six months. The results of such examinations are to be recorded by the employer. The labor department is to be notified if the symptoms of any occupational diseases appear in the examination reports of any worker.

3. The employer is to provide the workers with the medical care means in accordance with the standards determined by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, and in conjunction with the Minister of Health.

4. The employer is also duty bound to adopt all other safety measures set by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The worker is to be provided with safety gear and clothing for the purpose of protection from hazards.

5. Apart from this, the employer also has to provide for first aid facilities for the workers. The cleanliness and ventilation of the work place should be as per the standards of the Ministry of Health. Also proper lighting, drinking water and hygienic sanitary facilities are to be maintained at the work place by the employer.

Schedule no. 1 of the law provides for a list of occupational diseases which includes Poisoning by lead and its compounds, Poisoning by mercury and its compounds, Poisoning by arsenic and its compounds, Poisoning by antimony and its components, Poisoning by phosphor and its compounds, Poisoning by petroleum, its products, compounds and by – products, Poisoning by manganese and its compounds, Poisoning by sulphur minerals and its compounds, Poisoning by petroleum, its gazes, compounds and by – products, Poisoning by chloroform and carbonic tetrachloride, Disease arising from radium or radioactive substances (x – rays), Chronic skin diseases, skin and eye burns, Damage caused to the eye by reason of heat and light and the complications thereof, Lung diseases resulting from Silica Dust, Asbestos (Asbestos dust) or cotton dust, Anthrax, Edema, Tuberculosis and Typhoid Fever.

The law further provides for compensatory reliefs for the worker onbeing diagnosed with a occupational disease. The first relief the employer is supposed to provide is medical care. The employer is to bear all expenses for the treatment of the worker in a governmental or private local medical center until the worker recovers or his proved by the medical examinations to be disabled. Such treatment shall include costs of hospitalization or stay at a sanatorium, surgeries, x – rays and medical analyses, medicines and rehabilitation equipment, and the supply of artificial limbs and other prosthetic appliances when disability is established. The employer is also required to bear all costs of transportation in the process of the treatment.

In the event where the worker is not able to work due to the injury of disease, the employer is to pay him an allowance that is equal to a full wage for the entire period of treatment, or for a period of six months where the period of treatment is more than six months. The allowance is to be reduced by half for the period following the six months or until the worker fully recovers, is declared disabled, or dies.

The Law provides for compensation in event of partial disability of the worker in a permanent manner. In such cases a schedule is provided with the law where the amount of compensation is provided according to the type and degree of disability.

In case of permanent and complete disability the compensation to be provided is similar to the compensation provided in the case of death of an employee due to the occupational hazard or disease. In case of death the family of the worker is provided with the compensation. Members of family who are provided with the compensation are the persons in the family who are totally or mainly dependent on the deceased worker. The beneficiaries thus include the following:

1. The widow (s).
2. The children, namely:
a. Sons under 17 years of age, under 24 years of age regularly enrolled in academic institutions, and sons who are mentally or physically incapacitated in such an extent that they are unable to earn their own living. The term “sons” shall include the sons of the husband or the wife dependent on the deceased worker at the time of his death.
b. Unmarried daughters including also unmarried daughters of the husband or the wife dependent on the deceased worker at the time of his death.

3. The parents.
4. The siblings in accordance with the conditions set for the sons and daughters.

The amount of compensation awarded in case of death of a worker is equal to the basic wage of the worker for a period of 24 months. There is a minimum limit set to this compensation amount which is eighteen thousand dirhams and the maximum limit is set to thirty five thousand Dirhams. The last wage of the worker is to be considered while calculating the basic wage.

Such compensations shall not be provided to the worker in the following cases:

1. The worker intentionally gets injured in order to commit suicide.
2. The worker intentionally gets injured to receive compensation amount.
3. The worker intentionally gets injured for the sick leaves.
4. At the time of the accident the worker is under the influence of alcohol or narcotic drugs.
5. The worker intentionally breached the safety instructions of the employer.
6. The worker is injured due to his gross misconduct.
7. Refusal, without valid cause, by the worker to undergo periodical medical examination to diagnose for occupational disease.

Detroit Retirees Ponder Future Pension Cuts in Wake of Judge’s Bankruptcy Ruling

download (6)Now that the City of Detroit has been given the green light to proceed with restructuring under the protections of Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code that govern municipalities, potential large-scale cutbacks, including the pensions of city retirees and steep losses for unsecured creditors, are likely the order of the day.

Reading aloud from prepared text for more than one hour, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ruled on December 3rd that Detroit is officially eligible for bankruptcy because it met the specific legal criteria required to receive protection from its creditors. As a result, Detroit now holds the title of ‘largest bankrupt city in U.S. history.’

Detroit is $18.5 billion in debt, and says retiree benefits and retiree healthcare account for half of its liabilities with $5.7 billion of debt stemming from retiree healthcare and an additional $3.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

Although Rhodes ruled the city did not “negotiate in good faith” with its creditors, he called those negotiations “impracticable,” since many of the more than 100,000 creditors were unable or unwilling to negotiate in the first place.

As part of the restructuring, Rhodes also decided the city could cut pensions, ruling against an earlier argument by Detroit’s 23,500 retirees that Michigan’s constitution allows for special safeguards that protect retiree health care benefits and pensions from being slashed. While Michigan’s constitution protects public pension benefits as contracts, those contracts can be impaired in a municipal bankruptcy, Rhodes determined.

Yet, Rhodes cautioned that his court would not necessarily confirm any plan of adjustment that impairs pension rights, saying the restructuring plan must take into account all creditors-including retirees-and weigh that against what is most judicious for the city.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 (AFSCME) filed a notice of appeal claiming the judge made an error in ruling that federal bankruptcy law takes precedence over public employee pension protections entrenched in the Michigan constitution. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette called the judge’s decision disappointing and said he will file amicus briefs with the court reaffirming his support for protecting pensions. Other labor groups and Detroit’s pensions are expected to appeal as well.

Rhodes declined to stay the bankruptcy proceedings as appeals begin to proceed through the courts and said all motions to appeal his ruling must first be filed in bankruptcy court. He previously stayed all state court action in the case.

Now that Detroit has been declared ‘eligible’ for bankruptcy, Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is finalizing a “plan of re-adjustment,” which is slated to be filed by early January. Prior to the bankruptcy ruling, Orr’s initial proposal, which offered unsecured creditors shares in a $2 billion note in exchange for $11 billion in unsecured debt, may be altered.

Other financially troubled municipalities with unfunded pension liabilities will be keeping a close watch on future developments in Detroit. Unlike employees who work in the private sector, public pensions are not protected by the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.

Even though some analysts predict the arduous process of proving bankruptcy eligibility alone will keep most municipalities from imitating Detroit, the ruling does provide a model on which other cities may try to follow in the future.

Quoted in a December 3, 2013 Reuters article about the bankruptcy ruling, Richard Ciccarone, president of Merritt Research Services, said this decision “could create more bankruptcies because it’s a way to get out of pension contracts. It more than likely will mean that hard-pressed, stressed creditors with legacy liabilities will have to consider the option.”

Robert Novy-Marx, an associate professor of finance at the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School calls the judge’s ruling “hugely important” in a December 3, 2013 Detroit Free Press article. “In terms of the legal landscape, it clarifies the fact even pension benefits can be impaired,” he said.

“That very much changes the conversation that workers and municipalities have going forward,” said Novy-Marx, who has expertise in public pensions. “Up until now, the workers have said we’re going to get paid no matter what. We’re not going to negotiate.”

Rhodes’ ruling also means that the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is not exempt from the restructuring. The city-owned collection, which includes paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse among other prized possessions, is being evaluated by auction house Christie’s, since about 500 pieces could be affected by the bankruptcy, according to Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr. Christie’s auction house estimates on a preliminary basis that artwork purchased by the City for the museum’s collection is worth up to $866 million.

Detroit is not the only U.S. city facing daunting pension obligations. Chicago faces a $20 billion pension shortfall, while the state of Illinois holds the dubious distinction of being the worst funded public employee pension system in the nation with almost $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Illinois passed a long-awaited public pension reform on December 4, 2013, which was signed by the governor and is being challenged by the unions.

Youth Employment Regulations

download (8)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.

These provisions are to be kept in mind by employers, their representatives, guardians and trustees of the youth. As article 34 of the law provides that they are and shall be partially liable for the following of the above discusses provisions of the law.

1The federal law no. 8 of 1980 concerning the regulations of labour relations