Many private sector employers will opt for a Monday to Friday week, business experts say, following the government's decision to introduce a Saturday-Sunday weekend for public sector employees.
Several analysts said there was a business case and lifestyle benefits to match, with a four-and-a-half-day week a selling point when seeking top talent. A shift in school timings would be a key factor, too.
At present, most companies can trade on any day they wish and the decision is expected to be voluntary. But it is not yet clear if many would offer a shorter working week.
“The decision will make the UAE more attractive as a regional destination for foreign companies," said Ziad Daoud, chief emerging market economist at Bloomberg News.
Habib Al Mulla, a partner at law firm Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, said the "private sector most likely isn’t compelled to abide by the 4 1/2-day workweek until the labour ministry issues a circular to that effect”.
“Most likely, it won’t be imposed on the private sector.”
Monday to Friday is the new working week for the federal government, such as ministries and utilities, along with Dubai and Abu Dhabi governments. Schools are also set to make the shift from January.
Friday would be a half day ending at midday, with Saturday and Sunday also a weekend.
Speaking to The National, Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said private sector employers would not be told to fall in line with the new working week.
"Private sector companies are smart and they have been operating in a very competitive market... they will make their decision based on what they feel that will improve their position," he said.
"This decision will allow the UAE economy to be more compatible.
"It will eliminate the weekend gap - and it was a much longer gap in the past - and it will allow more business and exchange of trade with the world economy."
'Top work destination'
“This will align the UAE with global markets and make it easier for international corporations to do business,” said Nabil Alyousuf, chief executive officer of Dubai-based International Advisory Group.
“This will increase the number of days we do business with the rest of the world, which will boost trade.”
Nevin Lewis is the chief executive of Black and Grey Human Resources and has more than 150 clients in the private sector.
“Many private companies have already given flexibility in terms of working hours and a four and a half-day working week could help some employees,” he said.
“I feel it's going to make UAE the world's top work destination for the best professionals to come and work from if private sector follows suit.”
Local business owner Fahad Ahmed, manager of Gatewayz Tourism, said some sectors, like travel and visa companies, would need to have the same working week as the government.
The travel visas he secures for his customers can only be processed on weekdays.
“We are doing Dubai visas and if we apply for the visa on a day that is a weekend for the government staff, then it won’t be processed,” he said.
“So, obviously we would need to have the same weekend as the government.”