The United Arab Emirates, UAE, will shift to a working week of four and half days with a Saturday-Sunday weekend from the start of 2022 to better align its economy with global markets, but private companies will be free to choose their own working week.
The oil-producing Gulf state, the region’s commercial, trade and tourism hub, currently has a Friday-Saturday weekend. From Jan. 1, however, the weekend will start on Friday afternoon, including for schools, a government circular said.
“Each company, depending on the sector they operate in and what suits and serves their business best, can choose the weekend they decide for their employees”, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation Abdulrahman al-Awar told Reuters.
Over the past year, the UAE has taken measures to make its economy more attractive to foreign investment and talent at a time of growing economic rivalry with Saudi Arabia.
Addressing any religious sensitivities in the Sunni Muslim-ruled country, where expatriates make up most of the population, the government said work on Friday would end at 12 noon before Muslim prayers, which would be unified on Friday across the UAE.
It said the longer weekend would improve employees’ work-life balance and noted that several majority-Muslim nations, such as Indonesia and Morocco, have Saturday-Sunday weekends.
The UAE said the move would “ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities” for UAE-based and multinational firms.
The change will impact state entities like the central bank, which would communicate details about the new working hours to commercial banks, said al-Awar, adding that UAE stock exchanges would also be more integrated with global markets.