UAE government moves to 4.5-day working week; private sector free to choose

The UAE announced that it is set to introduce a four and a half-day working week for all government employees from 1 January 2022, with Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday constituting the ‘new weekend’.

Companies in the UAE private sector, however, are still free to choose how many working hours they expect their employees to work, subject to the maximum of 48 hours per week, and what days they will designate as the ‘weekend’, subject to employees being allowed a minimum of one day off as a weekend.

From next year all Federal government departments will transition to the new weekend, with employees working an eight-hour working day from 7.30am to 3.30pm from Monday to Thursday. On Friday there will be a 4.5-hour working day, from 7.30am to 12pm, with Friday prayers to take place after 1.15pm.

The UAE government said: “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. It will ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday/Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies.
“The new working week will also bring the UAE’s financial sector into closer alignment with global real-time trading and communications-based transactions such as those driving global stock markets, banks and financial institutions,” it said.

The move is expected to boost not only trading opportunities but also add to the social wellbeing of UAE citizens and residents. In the statement, the UAE media office stated there was “the possibility of working flexible hours and work-from home options on Friday” and that the “longer weekends would boost productivity and improve work-life balance”.

The Federal Authority for Government Human Resources proposed the new workweek following comprehensive benchmarking and feasibility studies reflecting potential impacts of the move on the economy, social and family ties and the overall wellbeing of people in the UAE.

Minister of Human Resources & Emiratisation Dr Abdulrahman Al Awar emphasised that companies in the UAE private sector are not obliged to change their weekends to Saturday and Sunday but said the UAE’s new labour laws would give private sector employers the flexibility to choose what weekend days “help them to be more competitive and enhance their economic competitiveness and growth”.
“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,” Dr Al Awar said.

“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.

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