1) Does the change to the UAE working week apply to the private sector?

Not directly. The UAE has announced that all UAE federal government entities will be transitioning to a four and a half day working week, from Monday to Friday lunch-time. Importantly, it has also been announced that all schools will operate from Monday to Friday.

Strictly speaking, the change does not specifically apply to the private sector. The new UAE labour law (Federal Law No.33 of 2021), which comes into force on 2 February 2022, states that all employees are entitled to one rest day per week. Employers are free to choose when that rest day is and the UAE federal government's announcement does not change that. In other words, it is open to private sector employers (except schools) to continue to operate a Friday/Saturday weekend.

That said, we anticipate that most private sector companies will change to a Saturday/Sunday weekend to align with the UAE federal government. It would not make much sense for businesses to remain open when all government authorities, ministries, courts and schools are closed.

2) When do private sector employers need to make any changes?

As set out above, private sector employers (excluding schools) do not have to change their weekend to Saturday/Sunday. However, the UAE federal government and schools will move to a Saturday/Sunday weekend from 1 January 2022 and so it would make sense for private sector companies to meet that timeline. 

3) How does this change align with the current UAE Labour Law, which requires a rest day to be on a Friday?

In short, it doesn't. There will be a discrepancy for the period between 1 January 2022 and 2 February 2022 given that the current labour law requires the weekly rest day to be a Friday.

4) Does this mean that employees in the private sector are entitled to work reduced hours?

No. Employees are required to work the hours that are specified in their employment contract until such time as their employment contract is amended by their employer. As set out above, there is currently no legal obligation on a private sector employer to change their weekend. However, if an employer decides to change their working week they should amend existing and new employees' employment contracts to reflect that change.

Whilst most private sector employers will move to a Saturday/Sunday weekend, we do not anticipate many employers agreeing to reduce employees' working hours without a commensurate reduction in salary. In other words, we expect most employers to move to a straightforward Monday-Friday working week, without the early finish on a Friday enjoyed by employees of the UAE federal government. 

5) Does this mean that employees are only required to work 4 and a half days per week?

No. As we set out above, there is currently no legal requirement for private sector employers to change or reduce their working week. If a private sector employer does move to a Saturday/Sunday weekend, we anticipate an increase in working from home on a Friday to accommodate those employees who want to attend Friday prayers.

6) What if an employee refuses to agree to change their working week?

An employer can either accommodate the employee's request to work an alternative working week or, if the employee refuses to work the hours required by their employer, the employer will need to consider whether to end the employment relationship.

7) What steps should an employer take as a result of these changes?

Employers who intend to change their working week will need to:

  • inform staff of the proposed changes, the reason for the change, and when the change will come into effect;
  • review and amend their current employment contracts and policies to ensure that they accurately reflect the new working days; and
  • consider what arrangements will be made to accommodate those employees who wish to attend Friday prayers.

Key Contacts

David True

David True

Associate, Employment

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