Companies in the UAE private sector are not obliged to change their weekends to Saturday and Sunday, the Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation said on Tuesday.
Dr Abdulrahman Al Awar told The National that the UAE's new labour laws give private sector employers the flexibility to choose what weekend days "help them to be more competitive and enhance their economic competitiveness and growth."
He emphasised that while the government does not tell the private sector when to operate, there is a legal limit to the number of hours employers can ask staff to work.
"The Labour Law discusses the maximum working hours per law, which are 48 hours a week, and they can choose to have shorter working hours if the companies wish, but they cannot exceed that," Mr Al Awar said.
"That is to protect the work relationship, between the rights of employees and their rights of employers.
"The private sector is to decide to choose how many working hours and working days they wish and they will allow a day off at minimum as a weekend."
Mr Al Awar believes private sector companies will adjust their weekends to Saturday and Sunday.
"They make their decisions based on what they feel will improve their competitive position and they will make wise decisions that suit their companies," he said.
Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Community Development, said the decision was in line with international practices.
“Not only will it be financially and commercially beneficial to the country, as previously many days were lost because our weekends were not aligned with the international market, but it will also help families to spend more quality time together. It will help strengthen family cohesiveness and social interactions," he said.
“The decision also takes into account our religious obligations and gives Muslims the chance to attend to their Friday prayers. [It is] a sound and successful decision that will benefit the country and the community on every level.”
Samia Al Hamoudi, director of communication at a local government entity, said the shorter working week is not expected to affect the productivity of her employees.
“Because of Covid, we have learnt that you do not have to be at an office to be more productive. The flexibility actually makes us even more productive than we ever were. I do believe that we will be more efficient and time-conscious,” she said.