Are you a Speech and Language Therapist or Occupational Therapist thinking of a move to Dubai in 2024?

Compiled by Annabel Whitcombe, Speech and Language Therapist. Moved to the UAE in January 2018 - March 22, 2024

Paperwork – the thing that takes the longest.  You will need to have all your documents attested by the UAE embassy in your home country. This can be done from the UAE, but if possible, do it in your home country. Otherwise, you’ll have to cover the cost to courier the documents. This includes your degree certificate(s), marriage certificate etc.

Licensing – in the emirate of Dubai, Speech and Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists are licensed to practise under the ‘Dubai Health Authority’ (DHA) only. Other Emirates have different licensing structures. You’ll need to accrue 10 CPD points each year to maintain your DHA license.  It may also be worth considering maintaining your license in your home country.  You may need to complete an oral or multiple-choice exam. However, in more recent years, applicants with degrees from certain countries are exempt from this. The process costs around 1000 AED.

Malpractice insurance – this is compulsory.  For Allied Health, this typically cost around 250-500AED per year.  You or your employer may cover this.

Cultural considerations – Dubai is a cosmopolitan city and is populated with people from all walks of life. There is a vast array of languages spoken and differing attitudes and expectations.  It is important to keep an open mind when working and living here and respect the traditions of the UAE.

Private practise – To legally practise as a Speech and Language Therapist or Occupational Therapist in Dubai, your hospital, clinic or centre must be license under Dubai Health Authority. Your professional license to practise using your title is only valid to work with the clinic to which your license is activated.  Therefore, working as an Allied Health ‘sole trader’ is not legally recognised and could incur fines.

Client groups – Just like your home country, there are a variety of Allied Health needs across the UAE population. It’s important to consider that the UAE is a relatively young population due to the need for a visa which is usually provided by your employer (although you may be sponsored by a partner on their visa).  However, retirement visas are now available, so some families invite older relatives to live here which is slowly changing the demographic.

UAE working week – The UAE working week is Monday – Friday. However, public sectors workers and schools finish around lunch time on Fridays to allow for prayer time.  Therefore, it’s likely that Friday afternoons will be a busy time for clients/patients/service users.

Public holidays and Ramadan – There are several public holidays including Eid Mubarak,  Eid Al Adha, National Day and New Year’s day. The government announces the dates each year and Eid and Ramadan are dependent on the moon sighting. During Ramadan, school hours and public sectors roles have shorter working hours.

Online/remote working – most clinics or centres offer appointments online and there has been an increase in this since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health insurance coverage for Allied Health – some health insurance companies may cover Allied Health such as Speech and Language Therapy, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.  Many hospitals offer ‘direct billing’ but most clinics or centres operate on a ‘pay and claim’ basis.

Renumeration – Some clinics will offer a salary, a mix of salary and commission or commission only.  Salaries are considered by the monthly amount, rather than the annual salary.  Salaries can vary from around 10,000 AED ($2700 US) – 30,000 AED+ ($8200 US) per month.  The UAE dirham (AED) is pegged to the US dollar.  Although this may seem like a significant jump from your current salary, it’s important to consider the high cost of living.

Gratuity – Your gratuity is an ‘end of service’ benefit. This is a percentage of your basic salary which is paid to you when you finish employment.  Conventional pension schemes are not usually available.

Career development – Some countries have well defined career progression through banding or grades e.g. National Health Service in the UK. However, there is not a unified structure in the UAE.  Individual hospitals, clinics and centres may have their own internal structures e.g. senior, head of department, supervisor etc.

Part-time working – This is being offered more and more in the UAE but full-time roles are the standard.

Maternity leave – In the private sector, female employees are legally entitled to 60 consecutive days of maternity leave. 45 days are paid in full and 15 days at half pay. For health reasons, you may take a further 100 days unpaid with a doctor’s certificate.  Some employees may choose to take longer than this, but this is dependent on an agreement between the employer and employee. Additionally, employees are also entitled too 1 hour of breastfeeding breaks upon their return to work. UAE’s Labour Law – Federal Decree Law No. 33 of 2021.

Life in the UAE – The winters highs are around 25 degrees but in the summer it can reach 50 degrees.  Many ex-patriates chose to visit their home countries in the summer so demand for Allied Health Services is typically lower in the summer months.

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