Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

Re-Thinking End of Service Benefits

In line with global retirement savings trends, the DIFC Employee Workplace Savings (DEWS) scheme will see the evolution of end-of-service benefits within the Centre from a defined benefit scheme to a defined contribution scheme. The new plan will also offer a voluntary savings component for employees.

Listen to Jacques Visser, Chief Legal Officer, DIFC Authority, discuss the DEWS scheme on Dubai Eye 103.8’s The Business Breakfast

What are the expected changes?

Where employers are currently not required to fund their accrued end-of-service obligations to employees, this will be mandatory under the new scheme. As it stands, a fixed statutory formula based on the employee’s years of service and final salary. At any point in between, until the employee’s service is terminated, employers do know what exactly that liability is. With the new scheme, employers will be able to monitor what they owe to the employee on a monthly basis.

Benefit security was another key consideration when introducing the new scheme, with funds being ring-fenced for this very purpose. While this is already voluntarily done by approximately half the companies based in the Centre, according to a survey conducted by the DIFC, this guarantees that all employees will receive the end-of-service benefits they are due at any given point.

The funds will be administered by a trust and will be managed by a scheme administrator, who will oversee an investment platform. Employees will be given the opportunity to decide what underlying funds and risk profiles they would like to invest in, including sharia’a compliant options.

What are the main benefits of the new scheme?

With the introduction of the new scheme, companies based in the DIFC will benefit from:

  • Knowing exactly what their liabilities to employees are at any given point, without any liability once paid
  • Cash flow requirements that are smoothed out over the employment cycle of an employee, rather than lump sum payments having to be determined at the end
  • Calculating an employee’s end-of-service gratuity based on their salary as and when they fall due, rather than at the final salary, making it more cost-effective to maintain
  • The ability to earn a return on their benefits and certainty of the payment thereof via a regulated and reputable administrator, allowing them to attract better talent

Meanwhile, employees will benefit from:

  • Receiving their end-of-service gratuity, irrespective of an employer going out of business
  • Having their contributions professionally managed in a cost-effective and flexible manner
  • The chance to earn a return on their contributions, which is currently not the case
  • Visibility and a choice as to how their savings will be managed, catering to a range of risk appetites and including shari’a compliant options
  • Voluntary savings options on top of employers’ contributions, offering an incentive to save more towards their retirement

What is the timeline for implementation?

Review of employer survey feedback

May 2019

DIFC to issue a summary of survey responses and employer feedback.

DEWS legislation

June 2019

DIFC to finalise the legal framework for establishing DEWS and the trust documentation.

Appointments

July 2019

DIFC to appoint the DEWS trustee and administrator following an RFP process.

DEWS engage with employers

August 2019

The trustee and administrator contact employers around the process to transition to DEWS.

DEWS go live date

January 2020

DEWS goes live on 1 January 2020 with contributions commencing to the trust, and service stopping for the existing defined benefit arrangement.

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