Dubai brings in new expat health insurance laws

Employers with expatriate members of staff working or going to work in Dubai will have to comply with new health insurance laws. 


Under the new rules, it is mandatory for all expats in Dubai to hold basic compliant health insurance in order to be issued with a visa. In addition, all insurance products need to be regulated by the Dubai Health Authority.

Products will need to at least match mandatory benefits such as maternity cover and non-exclusion of pre-existing conditions.

Spouses and dependents will also need to be covered by the employer or the employee themselves before a visa is granted to work.

The Dubai government will provide health insurance cover to local nationals.

Specific employer obligations regarding private medical insurance (PMI) for employees include:

  • Employers must bear the cost.
  • There must be no self-funded schemes, all PMI policies must be fully insured.
  • Verification that the insurance is valid for the length of the employee’s work period.
  • Bearing the costs in medical emergencies for any of the employees if any of them has no health insurance, which could result in further costs that were not anticipated.
  • Providing a health insurance card for all employees.

The new legislation was passed in 2013 but it is being implemented on a phased basis: 

  • 31 October 2014: Organisations with 1,000 or more employees
  • 31 July 2015: Employers with 100-999 employees
  • 30 June 2016: Organisations with 100 employees
  • 30 June 2016: Dependents of sponsors including employed domestic workers (such as cleaners or housekeeping staff) 

James Spencer, international corporate benefits manager at Jelf International, said: “There are already a number of fully compliant interntional PMI providers on the market as well as many local companies providing cover, so employers should take care to select a health insurance provider that meets their own, as well as their employees’, requirements.

“Consideration needs to be given to whether [employers] intend to meet or go beyond the basic legal requirements.

“The penalties for non-compliance include fines, the obvious inability to physically relocate staff in to the country and potentially the cessation of business practice, all of which are seriously disruptive to any [organisation].

“However, while these measures may feel like red tape, they will also have benefits for the employer which will be better able to maintain a healthy and productive workforce. While the deadlines impact those employers with largest workforces first, our advice is to ensure that the existing policy, irrespective of how many employees are covered, is fully compliant at the earliest opportunity.”