A needed break from the heat

We welcome the midday break, which has proven to be effective in previous years

Construction workers have welcomed the three-month-long midday break rule. Pawan Singh / The National
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All of us feel the midday heat in the hot months of summer. When temperatures can pass 40°C, those inside cannot help but feel sympathetic to those others whose work requires staying outside for long hours. Working in such conditions can cause dehydration, headaches and heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, cramps and sun stroke. It’s even more difficult for Muslim workers who fast during Ramadan and can’t even drink water.

This is why the mandatory midday break, which came into effect yesterday, is so important. Construction and other workers have welcomed the three-month-long break. Some workers might use the time to rest or nap. Yet others might find the time useful for catching up on chores. Whatever they choose to do, it is for them to decide.

Indeed, what is more important than the law itself, is its enforcement. As The National reported earlier this month, 60,000 inspections are planned by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, starting from the first day until September 15, to ensure that all companies and businesses across the UAE fully comply with the rules.

But employers should aim for more than mere compliance. It is good practice to aim for proper, responsible worker welfare. During these hot summer months, that might mean providing an air-conditioned space or tent where workers can relax. And given the fact that a fair number of companies house workers a great distance from their work sites, would it be too much to expect them to be ferried on buses with air-conditioning? It is these sorts of small touches that make for a good employer. And employers ought to remember that looking after their workers is not only the law, it’s quite simply good business.

As the UAE continues to develop, it’s important to ensure that the rights of workers are protected and that their conditions match international health and safety standards. The midday break is a big step in that direction.