Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is DEWS?

The DEWS Scheme is a funded workplace savings scheme for expatriate workers.

With DEWS, DIFC's end-of-service benefit scheme will move from the defined benefit structure to a funded, professionally managed defined contribution scheme.

DEWS will offer employees a low cost investment platform for receiving and managing mandatory employer end-of-service contributions. Employees will also be able to make voluntary savings in the scheme.

Q: Why change the existing system?

The DIFC Employment Law, Law 2 of 2019, currently requires employers to provide an end-of-service benefit for expatriate workers based on years of service and final basic salary – a defined benefit (DB) entitlement.

However, over the last 20 years, globally, corporates have adopted the defined contribution plans (DC) to avoid the risks associated with open-ended defined benefit plans.

The DIFC Authority has recognised the need to reform its Employment Law, to reduce such risks on employers and to ensure that members have access to a certain level of benefits upon leaving their organisation.

This shift will help DIFC-based employers offer benefits that meet international standards. This will also become a key factor for retaining and attracting talent.

Q: Who is the Master Trustee to the scheme?

Equiom have been selected as the Master Trustee for the DEWS Plan following an extensive selection process undertaken by the DIFC Authority in conjunction with their external advisors.

With almost 20 years’ experience of providing such specialist services to employers in the Middle East, and having operated in jurisdictions with comparable legislation to that expected to be implemented by the DFSA, they are well placed to fulfill the role of Master Trustee for the DEWS plan. Equiom is licensed by the DFSA and operate within the DIFC.

Q: What does the plan Trustee do?

The DEWS Master Trustee's primary function is to act as legal owner of the contributions made by the employing companies, whilst the beneficial interest lies with the underlying members (employees). They key benefit to employees is having the comfort of knowing that once contributions are made they are no longer controlled by their employer, but rather an independent trustee that is accountable to the Regulator and there to protect the members interests throughout.

The Master Trustee will appoint and oversee the administrator of the scheme whilst working with their appointed Investment Advisor to ensure that the investment options available to scheme members are performing appropriately and that the necessary information is provided to the Regulator and key stakeholders in accordance with the regulations and plan documentation in place.

Q: Who is the Administrator of the scheme?

The selected Administrator for DEWS is Zurich - a leading multi-line insurer serving customers in global and local markets. The company has a long-standing presence in the region for 30 years and robust expertise in workplace savings.

Zurich Group currently administers over 750 workplace savings plans with USD 5 billion in funds under administration for more than 90,000 plan members.

Q: What is the Administrator's role?

Zurich, as Administrator, will facilitate the enrollment of employers into the DEWS scheme. They will be responsible for

  • contribution collection,
  • allocation to member accounts and
  • maintenance of member records.

In addition, they will administer new joiners to the scheme, leavers and changes to contribution rates as notified by employers. They will also provide support to the Master Trustee, assist in their governance role and the requirement to provide regular reports to the DIFC Supervisory Board.

Zurich will provide full support to employers and employees through an online portal, giving real-time scheme information and data.

Q: Will the scheme offer financial advice to employees?

No, employees will have to seek financial advice on their own if they need. However, Zurich will provide employers ready-to-use content to educate members about DEWS - this will cover all general queries.

Q: Who provides ongoing oversight and governance of the scheme?

There are various levels of oversight and governance related to the scheme.

The appointed trustee (Equiom) will oversee the Scheme and ensure that it is operating in accordance with the Scheme documentation (Trust Deed and Scheme Rules)

The trustee will be regulated by and accountable to the Regulator (the Dubai Financial Services Authority).

In addition a Supervisory Board is being established and will comprise of a combination of DIFCA representatives as well as employer and employee representatives from within the DIFC and provide further independent oversight to the Scheme.

The scheme’s appointed Investment Advisor will also be regulated and so required to adhere to the rules as set out by their Regulator, the DFSA.

Q: Is the scheme voluntary?

All DIFC employers will be required to enroll as a participating employer within the DEWS Master Trust by 1st January 2020. This is a mandatory requirement, unless employers have been provided with a Qualifying Alternative Scheme Certificate by the DIFC Registrar (more information regarding the criteria will be available soon). Employees will be able to make voluntary contributions, through salary deduction.

Q: Why should an employee use DEWS over a personal savings plan?

DEWS will allow employees to save and grow their investments in a far more cost effective and flexible way than most other forms of saving. With DEWS, they will have more control over their financial future.

In addition, employees will have the peace of mind that their savings are legally separated from their employer, via a trust. The trustees will act in the beneficiaries (employees) best interests in providing oversight and reporting to the DIFC Supervisory Board.

Q: Can employers influence or make the decision on the risk profile of the investments made in DEWS?

No, all contributions to DEWS will be invested in the 'Default Fund' at outset.

Once they become members of the scheme, employees will be able to make their own investment selection. They will be able to switch between different funds if they want to, or simply remain in the Default Fund. The Default Fund will be a low risk fund that offers potential for long-term growth.

If employers are in any doubt about the growth potential of the Default Fund, they should seek independent financial advice.

Q: Is there any vesting applicable to DEWS?

No. On leaving service employees will be entitled to 100% of the invested benefit.

Q: What will happen to the end of service gratuity accrued up to the Changeover Date?

At the changeover date, benefits earned under the existing formula would stop earning new service, but would continue to be linked to future increases in Basic Salary. DIFC Employment Law requires that basic salary can be no less than 50% of regular earnings.

Q: What will be the employer contributions to DEWS?

The minimum contribution amounts will depend on the length of service. For DEWS, each member tenure is calculated from the day they started employment. The minimum contribution rates as a percentage of basic salary are:

  • for members with less than 5 years service - 5.83%
  • for members with 5 years service or more - 8.33%

For the purpose of simplicity and cost neutrality, the minimum employer contribution rates under DEWS have been designed to broadly match minimum accrual rates under the existing end-of-service benefit system.

Q: Can employees withdraw an amount during employment?

No, employees will receive their entitlement at the point of leaving service.

Q: Can employees make voluntary contributions into DEWS?

Yes, employees can do this through salary deduction.
Contributions will be automatically invested in the DEWS Default Fund. Employees will be able switch out of the Default Fund on-line through their log-in and password. If employees are in any doubt about the appropriateness of the Default Fund, they should seek independent financial advice via a suitably regulated, fee-based advisory firm.

Q: Will employees have access to DEWS when they go back to their country of origin?

Yes, if they decide not to take their benefits on leaving service they will still have access to DEWS, online, from their country of origin.
Depending on the country of their origin, the employees may need to seek tax advice before accessing benefits.

Q: Is there any grace period for implementing DEWS for employers?

No. Employers will be required to enroll as a participating employer within the DEWS Master Trust by 1st January 2020. This is a mandatory requirement, unless employers have been provided with a Qualifying Alternative Scheme Certificate by the DIFC Registrar (more information regarding the criteria will be available soon).

Q: Is there a help-line for employers who have questions regarding the plan?

Yes. Employers can send their queries to dewsinfo@difc.ae

Q: What ongoing information and support will be provided to companies and employees?

The DIFC website will host all information related to the DEWS scheme. Employers and employees will benefit from digital brochure, explainer videos and FAQs, amongst other resources. Please visit the DEWS page regularly for updates and fresh support materials.

In addition, a 360 degree onboarding program will be set up with town halls, workshops, webinars, and kiosks around the Centre to cater to questions and provide hands-on guidance.

A Zurich account manager and support team will also be available to guide employers through any queries.

Q: How can an employee view their DEWS information and access the fund performance data?

All fund-related information will be available online for employees.
Employees will be able to access their fund data using the DEWS app on their mobile devices and through the website on desktop.
The portal will offer real-time fund data 24/7.
Employees will also be able to access their DEWS updates using Amazon Alexa and Google Home integration.

Q: Do employees have the ability to switch between investment funds?

Yes. Employees will have the control over the DEWS savings. They can switch to different funds if they want to move from the Default Fund option, using the app or the website.

Q: What is the Supervisory Board?

The DIFC Supervisory Board is a statutory corporation that will oversee the establishment of the DEWS Master Trust, the scheme rules and the appointment of its trustee and administration service provider.

The DIFC Supervisory Board will provide oversight of the scheme’s governance and commercial aspects that are not subject to regulatory supervision. It will be comprised of DIFC Authority representatives, employer and employee representatives, as well as independent oversight.

Q: How and when will benefits be paid under the new system?

Benefits from DEWS will be paid on leaving service. The payment will be made directly to the employee's nominated bank account. Alternatively, the employee can defer taking the benefit and remain invested in the scheme until a later encashment date.

Employees may also be entitled to a separate payment from their employer in respect to end-of-service benefit entitlement built up in relation to service prior to the introduction of DEWS on 1st January 2020.

Q: Will UAE or GCC nationals need to be included in DEWS?

DEWS is a workplace savings plan for expatriate employees working in the DIFC. It will replace the current end-of-service benefit entitlement from 1st January 2020. The scheme will not include UAE nationals or GCC nationals who are accruing a social security benefit. However, they could choose to make voluntary contributions.

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