The UAE’s new Mental Health Law comes into effect

7 June 2024 3 min read

By Natalie Jones and Dharma Carlin

At a glance

  • On 30 May 2024, UAE Federal Mental Health Law (Federal Law No. 10/2023) came into force, replacing Federal Law No. 28/1981.
  • The new law seeks to protect the rights of individuals with certain mental health conditions. It also sets out the general rights of psychiatric patients, including in an employment context, and imposes various obligations on employers.  

On 30 May 2024, the new UAE Federal Mental Health Law (Mental Health Law) came into force. The law addresses the treatment and safeguarding of the rights of ‘Psychiatric Patients’. It also regulates the relationship between ‘Psychiatric Patients’ and parties they have relationships with, including employers.


The Mental Health Law applies across the UAE, including in the free zones, except in the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) freezones. In the DIFC and ADGM, existing statutory provisions protect employees with mental health conditions.

The Mental Health Law seeks to protect individuals who are diagnosed with 'disturbances in thinking, mood, behaviour, perception, memory, or other mental abilities, some or all of them, and leading to a defect in the social, employment, or educational functions or psychological suffering of the person'. Pursuant to the law, these disorders are classified according to the psychiatric classifications recognised by international organisations and entities. It is therefore likely that commonly recognised psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar (amongst many others) would fall under this definition. 

Impact on employers

A key aspect of the law now prevents employers from restricting the employment of ‘Psychiatric Patients‘ due to their mental health condition, subject of course to their condition meeting the definition of a psychiatric disorder. The same provision also prevents employers from terminating the employment of a ‘Psychiatric Patient‘ due to their mental health condition, unless a report has been issued by a specialised medical committee and the termination is carried out in accordance with UAE laws. The law does not address what a ‘Competent Medical Committee‘ is or how it is formed, however we expect that this to be addressed in the law’s implementing regulations.

Practically, in order to ensure compliance with the Mental Health Law, UAE employers should be mindful of employees’ psychiatric conditions when dealing with potential performance or disciplinary matters and whether reasonable adjustments could be made to accommodate an employee’s situation, prior to taking disciplinary or other action against an employee. Furthermore, employers should review and update their termination policies and procedures and ensure that they do not dismiss employees with psychiatric disorders without first obtaining a report issued by a specialised medical committee. As mentioned, it is currently unclear how this will operate in practice.

Employers must also keep information connected with an employee’s mental health condition confidential. Employers may need to review their policies and practices to ensure that this information is adequately safeguarded.

Penalties for non-compliance

Chapter six of the Mental Health Law sets out a range of penalties for breaches of the law. Penalties include potential imprisonment and fines ranging from AED50,000 to AED200,000. It is unclear at this stage:

  • what specific penalties would apply to employers who disregard the provisions of the Mental Health Law but otherwise comply with the terms of the UAE Labour Law; and
  • how penalties will be imposed and enforced.

The implementing regulations, which are expected to come into force within a year, should provide further guidance on procedures and mechanisms for enforcing the Mental Health Law.

Overall impact

The Mental Health Law follows the global trend of improved mental health awareness and the significant shift towards recognising and addressing mental health issues. Around the world we have seen employers increasingly implementing mental health programmes, providing resources and employee assistance programmes to support their workforce. 

UAE employers may wish to consider how conversations surrounding mental health are conducted with employees in the workplace. This may also require employers to consider whether additional training should be provided to HR teams or line managers to ensure that these sensitive conversations and matters are being dealt with in line with the new Mental Health Law and global best practice. Employers may also wish to review their existing policies, particularly those concerning performance, discipline and termination, and consider whether they adequately deal with mental health disorders and align with the Mental Health Law. 

If you have any questions about the new Mental Health Law, please get in touch with your DLA Piper contact.