The United Arab Emirates has slashed its official public sector working week to four-and-a-half days and has moved to a “Western-style” Saturday to Sunday weekend – changes aimed at aligning the country’s financial institutions with the global market.
The decision will come into effect from January 1st next year and is considered as the shortest workweek in the world. It will make the UAE one of the few countries in the Middle East to operate from Monday to Friday instead of Sunday to Thursday.
Currently, only Lebanon and Turkey follow a Monday to Friday workweek schedule.
According to a government statement: “The move will ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with the countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies.”
The new schedule also aims to “boost not only trading opportunities but also add to the flexible, secure and enjoyable lifestyle the Emirates offers its citizens and residents.”
Employees working in the government sector will work half-day on Friday and take Saturday and Sunday off. The statement further said that the Friday sermons and prayers will begin at 1:15 PM after employees leave work.
According to WAM, UAE’s state news agency: “The UAE is the first nation in the world to introduce a national working week shorter than the global five-day week.”
“The extended weekend comes as part of the UAE government’s efforts to boost work-life balance and enhance social wellbeing while increasing performance to advance the UAE’s economic competitiveness,” the WAM reported.
“From an economic perspective, the new working week will better align the UAE with global markets, reflecting the country’s strategic status on the global economic map.”
The Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, Dr. Abdulrahman Al Awar, said: “The new system will reposition the labour market as a global market and a key driver of the national economy. This will reflect positively on the workers in various business sectors and lead to increased productivity.”
Although the new schedule is not binding on private sector, he said: “The Labour Law discusses the maximum working hours per law, which are 48 hours a week, and they can choose to have shorter working hours if the companies wish, but they cannot exceed that…
“That is to protect the work relationship, between the rights of employees and their rights of employers. The private sector is to decide to choose how many working hours and working days they wish and they will allow a day off at minimum as a weekend.”
“They make their decisions based on what they feel will improve their competitive position and they will make wise decisions that suit their companies,” he said.
It is unclear how the move will affect the UAE’s migrant workers, many of whom suffer systematic abuse such as unpaid wages, forced labour, dangerous working conditions and unsanitary accommodation facilities.