The UAE's Cabinet recently approved amendments to the Civil Procedure Code. In line with the UAE Vision 2021 and UAE Centennial Strategy 2071, this reform seeks to strengthen, modernise and enhance the existing judicial process and make it more accessible and easier for litigants. In this article, we take a closer look at the recent changes and how, in practice, they interact with employment claims.
Two new pieces of legislation have been published, stirring up some noise within litigation circles. The first being Resolution No. 57 of 2018 concerning the Executive Regulation Federal Law No. 11 of 1992 on the Civil Procedure Law (Executive Regulations), which came into force on 16 February 2019, and the second, Decision No. 9 of 2019 concerning the allocation of the civil partial circuit (Decision), which came into force on 1 April 2019. The Decision has been enacted pursuant to the Executive Regulation.
The Executive Regulations deal with many aspects of the litigation process. We highlight below some of the key changes, including those more pertinent to employment claims.
Service of Proceedings
- Modern means - one of the biggest areas of change is that service of proceedings by 'modern means of communication' has been elaborated on the Executive Regulations to, include; recorded voice or video calls, mobile SMS, email, fax or any similar means, as set out in a Minister of Justice decision, or mutually agreed by the parties.
- Time of service - service of proceedings can now take place between the hours of 7am-9pm (previously 7am-6pm) save that - service by modern means, may take place any time on weekends (with the exception of service on government entities).
- Party service - the Executive Regulations allow for parties to be involved in the service process either by guiding the court bailiff or by performing the service themselves (subject to the court's approval).
- Language - where the official language of the respondent is not Arabic, a claimant is required to attach an English translation (or any other language parties have previously agreed to) to the service notice. Note however that such requirement does not apply in employment claims being commenced by employees.
Case Management Office
While not a new function, the Executive Regulations place a lot of emphasis and responsibility on the Case Management Office which is tasked with essentially dealing with all preliminary matters. Such matters include; filing, supervising the service process and managing the case before it is passed to the judge, including the exchange of submissions by the parties until such time as sufficient documentation, evidence and information is present for the matter to be adjudicated. The increased involvement by the Case Management Office should alleviate court time and pressure by ensuring that the case progresses only once sufficient information has been gathered, ultimately resulting in employment claims being realised more efficiently and expeditiously, with the practice of prolonged and repeated adjournments slowly being reduced.
The Case Management Office is presided over by a supervising judge who oversees the handling of the case and intervenes when required. For example, if an expert or further investigation is required, the supervising judge may order the same. The powers of the supervising judge have been expanded on in the Executive Regulations, which should ultimately lead to time being saved where matters, such as the appointment of an expert, are dealt with at the case management stage.
Summary Chambers within the Partial Civil Circuit Division
The Executive Regulations introduce a new means of adjudication through what has been titled Summary Chambers for a specific section of claims. In Dubai the recent publication of the Decision has clarified some of the perceived ambiguities of the workings and creation of the Summary Chambers, which have been termed Partial Civil Circuits. The partial civil circuits within the Duabi Courts of First Instance will be used to deal with cases falling within the confinement of the below criteria:
- Civil, commercial and labour monetary claims not exceeding AED 100,000 in value;
- Cases pertaining to signature authenticity whatever their value; and
- Cases relating to claiming unpaid wages, salaries and alike, which do not exceed AED 200,000 in value.
Cases falling within the above ambit will be heard by way of a single hearing. When it comes to labour claims, it is important to note that the Executive Regulations provide that Summary Chambers hearings for labour claims with a value not exceeding AED 20,000 are final and not subject to appeal (for all other cases the value is AED 50,000).
While we are yet to see claims being navigated through the Summary Chambers path, it is likely that such claims will be handled more expeditiously which should ultimately result in lower litigation fees for litigants and in turn create greater access to justice for lower value claims, many of which involve employment related disputes.
Representation under the Executive Regulations provides litigants with additional flexibility as it expands on the list of permitted representation, to include; a relative up to the fourth degree and an employee acting as an attorney-in-fact where the party is a business entity, as well as continuing to permit parties to represent themselves, or be represented by a lawyer.
While it is premature to feel the practical impact of the changes brought about by the Executive Regulations and the Decision, the changes are designed to streamline, shorten and make the current litigation cycle more accessible which can only be looked upon positively.