Navigating the UAE's Anti-Discrimination Law

  • Market Insight 27 February 2024 27 February 2024
  • Middle East

  • Regulatory & Investigations - People Challenges

In a significant move towards fostering tolerance and societal harmony, the UAE has introduced Law No. 34/2023 on combating discrimination, hatred, and extremism. Effective since 29 October 2023, this law replaces its predecessor, Law No. 2/2015, with notable enhancements addressing discrimination, hatred, and extremism. While foundational principles remain consistent, the 2023 Law brings essential changes, reflecting the UAE's commitment to creating a society that values diversity, promotes tolerance, and safeguards national security.

Key Takeaways

  1. Protected Classes Defined: The law prohibits discrimination based on "Protected Classes," including religion, belief, rite, community, sect, race, colour, ethnic origin, gender, or race. The term "religions" specifically includes Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
  2. Broad Application: The law extends to various means of expression and channels, covering speech, writing, drawing, photography, acting, network information, communication, websites, and IT.
  3. Corporate Accountability: Representatives, managers, or agents can be held accountable for offenses committed by company personnel, with penalties applied as if the representative committed the offense.
  4. Penalties: Imprisonment of not less than 1 year and/or fines ranging from AED 500,000 to AED 1,000,000 are stipulated for discriminatory acts. Similar penalties apply to discriminatory acts by public employees.
  5. Prohibited Actions: The law prohibits actions such as producing, promoting, or selling materials involving religious contempt, discrimination, or hatred speech.
  6. Definition of Extremism Expanded: The term "extremism" now encompasses any act affecting public order based on ideas, ideologies, values, or principles, providing a comprehensive framework.
  7. Measures Against Extremism: Individuals adopting extremist ideologies may face counselling, travel bans, surveillance, or residence restrictions, reinforcing preventive measures.
  8. Establishment of Lists of Extremists: The Council of Ministers can establish lists of individuals or organisations considered extremists, enhancing national security measures.
  9. Reporting of Offenses: Proactive reporting is encouraged, with individuals reporting offenses absolved from penalties. Reporting after an offense may still result in exemption or reduced sentences.
  10. Penalty Adjustments: Penalties under the 2023 Law demonstrate a nuanced approach, aligning severity with the nature of offenses

Workplace Impact: Navigating Change

Organisations are urged to consider critical aspects in light of the new/updated law.

  1. Social Media Policies: Employers may need to review and enhance social media policies, addressing individual use and communication apps for internal communications such as WhatsApp.
  2. Employee Training: Conducting training sessions on workplace conduct policies and interactions with colleagues becomes crucial for compliance.
  3. Investigation Protocols: Establishing clear protocols for investigating allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace is essential, defining when to invoke an external “fact finder” and how to act on investigation findings.
  4. Differentiating Grievances and Whistleblowing: Ensuring employees understand the distinction between individual grievances and whistleblowing complaints is crucial for transparency.


As the UAE forges ahead, organisations must reflect on these implications, proactively addressing changes brought about by the 2023 Law. Staying informed is key to navigating the dynamic landscape and embracing the challenges and opportunities ahead. 


Stay up to date with Clyde & Co

Sign up to receive email updates straight to your inbox!