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A public consultation process is currently underway in relation to various proposed amendments to the DIFC Employment Law (DIFC Law No. 2 of 2019, as amended) (the “Law”) and the associated Employment Regulations (dated 1 February 2020) (the “Regulations”). The DIFC Authority is welcoming feedback on the proposed legislative amendments until 28 March 2021. Defined terms used below have the meanings given to them under the Law and/or the Regulations.
This client alert provides a high level summary of a number of the more significant proposed amendments.
The proposed amendments seek to refine the Qualifying Scheme savings regime, introduced in February 2020, under which the DIFC Authority introduced the default DIFC Employee Workplace Savings Plan (“DEWS Plan”). The DEWS Plan was authorised and licensed by the DFSA. However, the DIFC Authority and DFSA encountered difficulties in assessing applications from other Qualifying Schemes operated by foreign service providers. These issues were also highlighted in the proposed changes to the DFSA Rules contained in the DFSA’s Consultation Paper No. 137.
The proposed amendments will require that Qualifying Schemes (including the applicable trustee and administrator) are established in the DIFC and regulated by the DFSA. Provision for an exemption may only being granted where:
DIFC employers who currently use a savings scheme which will not satisfy the proposed new requirements (there are only a limited number of DIFC employers who fall into this category) will have a 12-month grace period (from when the new legislative requirements come into effect) to transition to a different employee savings scheme going forward.
For employers who are enrolled with DEWS and are satisfied with the operation of the scheme, there will be no impact. For employers who were considering alternative Qualifying Schemes, the proposed amendments will have an impact as any alternative scheme must either now be established in the DIFC (rather than be established in other offshore jurisdictions such as Jersey, Isle of Man etc) or meet one of the two exceptions set out above. Essentially, there will no longer be scope for commercially run foreign schemes under the new proposals.
The majority of the other proposed amendments are intended to remove potential ambiguity and/or address unintended consequences arising under the Law and Regulations as they are currently drafted. Some of the additional proposed changes are summarised below:
The full consultation paper and associated documentation can be accessed via the link provided. If you would like any further information regarding the proposed legislative amendments, or if you have any comments which you would like us to incorporate when we submit our feedback to the DIFC Authority in connection with the public consultation process, please do not hesitate to contact us, whether in writing or via a call to discuss.
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