The United Arab Emirates is experiencing a 4.5-day work week
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates along the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Representing one of the most important financial players in the world today, the state is now moving toward a growth-oriented economy, environmental sustainability, and the latest technologies to improve business operations. However, this action does not only concern financial elements, but also social factors, especially the working environment.
In December last year, representatives of the emirates announced that the working week would be reduced to four and a half days. As a result, students and public sector employees will benefit from a long break, thus having sufficient time for rest and various leisure activities. The local authorities pointed out that changing the work program was meant to facilitate the country’s competitiveness in relation to Western economies.
Increasing social productivity
The new workweek plan was officially announced less than a week after the 50-year anniversary of the nation’s founding as an independent state (2 December 1971). Initially, until 2006, the United Arab Emirates imposed a “Thursday-Friday” weekend on its citizens. Subsequently, in accordance with the religious norms, the state went to rest on Friday and Saturday, the private environment following this change.
Learn more about the 4-day work week and its benefits.
Currently, according to an official statement, the extended weekend is part of the United Arab Emirates government’s efforts to ensure a work-life balance, while increasing the state’s social productivity and economic performance. In other words, the weekend will start Friday at noon and will end on Sunday. During the week, the working hours will be 9 hours per day, respectively 8:00 – 17:00, Monday to Thursday, and 4 hours, namely 8:00 – 12:00 for Friday.
Change in religious activities
As the work schedule became mandatory for public sector organizations at the beginning of the new year (1 January 2022), it replaced the federal statute that established Friday as a day off for Muslim prayers. In this context, Friday prayers will take place after 13:15 throughout 2022.
Even though the state news agency characterized the new work week as the shortest in the world, highlighting the many advantages that this practice can generate, there were also opposing views.
For example, 22-year-old Rachel King from Britain, who has been working in the hospitality industry and has been living in Dubai for six months, said she preferred the previous option because most people were delighted to have Friday off to fill time with various recreational activities. At the same time, Ahmad Bilbisi, 34, a bank employee, has the same opinion, claiming that, for the time being, working on Friday seems a little bit…strange.
In this context, Sharjah, an emirate neighboring Dubai, has found a simple solution: mandating Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as a three-day weekend.
Business sector reactions
According to a survey conducted by Mercer Middle East, which involved more than 190 companies in the United Arab Emirates, a relatively small number of companies will adopt the 4.5-day work week that has already been implemented at state institutions.
Therefore, most companies (57%) would prefer to switch to the new weekend. However, only 23% of respondents said they could successfully implement the four-hour program on Friday.
Moreover, the organizations that started the transition process to the Saturday-Sunday weekend want to adopt a hybrid working model. In principle, employers considering taking an extra half-day off on Friday said the work schedule for the rest of the week would not be increased, nor would the pay be affected.
“Employers in the UAE must continue to offer staff flexibility, particularly for parents given that schools will operate a half-day on Friday, and to accommodate religious needs. Offering staff the choice to work from home, or to work flexible days and or hours, will support talent attraction and retention. Overall, the shift to the new working weekend in the UAE has strong support from the private sector, but the companies that will thrive as employers of choice will be those that continue to stay attuned to the needs of their diverse workforces. At the same time, the results of the survey show that 84% of companies believe that the new weekend will have a positive impact on international transactions. On the other hand, 37% do not consider that the extended weekend formula would in any way influence the activities in the Middle East.”, said Ted Raffoul, Mercer’s Career and Workforce Products business leader, MENA.
Nevertheless, survey results show that 84% of firms believe the new weekend will have a positive impact on international transactions. On the other hand, 37% do not consider that the extended weekend version would in any way influence activities in the Middle East.
At this time, private sector companies are not legally required to switch to a 4.5-day work schedule, but the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has recommended to the business community to reschedule weekly employee days off to align with the new weekend format.
Thus, several companies, including Galadari Brothers Group and Active Digital Marketing Communication, have already announced the transition to the new working week, with a flexible schedule for Friday.