How parents are trying to adjust to the UAE's new working week

Childcare providers and after-school clubs report surge in demand for Friday afternoon activities from parents who will be at work while their children are off

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The UAE's weekend switch has left some parents trying to adjust to a new week, which means they will be working when their children are off.

Government offices and schools shifted to a Monday-to-Friday working week from January 1.

Private companies, however, have been allowed to set their own schedule, with some choosing to stick with the old Sunday-to-Thursday routine for now.

This means some parents will work on Sundays while their children are off, but be off work on Friday mornings when their children are at school.

There is more time off school, which means we've got to spend more. But we'll have more family time
Hasaah Hadi

"Our company has announced it will not be changing to the new weekend, which will massively impact my family life," said Louise, 38, who works in the construction management and consultancy sector that will be sticking with the old working week for now.

"My husband's company will be changing to the new weekend so this means that I will have only one day per week with my family," said Louise, a mother of two who did not wish to give her second name. "This is a deal breaker," she said. "I will give it a few months to see if my company changes. If not, I will be looking for a new job."

Louise said she will probably increase her nanny's salary to pay for the extra time needed to care for her two children.

Kimi, 47, who works in a private school and has a son who is autistic and needs extra care, said the new working week will affect their routines.

"The only impact will be longer hours in school," said Kimi, who also declined to give her second name. "[Our] son, who is in special school, will leave at his regular time but as a professional in a private school I have to stay back longer, which is very tough for us."

Kimi anticipates having to spend extra time preparing lessons to ensure all children can cover the curriculum within the shorter school week.

She is often nervous about leaving her son with her maid for extended periods because he has substantial needs. "Being on the [autism] spectrum, he can have big meltdowns if he is not handled with care," she said. "He is sensitive to commands and demands. [It] will surely affect his schedule and mine too."

But parents working for companies who have chosen to switch welcomed the new week.

Wealth manager Hasaah Hadi described the move as brilliant because she would get to spend more time with her family.

She works full time and will be putting her two sons, aged 12 and 13, into after-school clubs on Friday, costing her an extra Dh1,500 a month.

"But at the same time, our income level needs to go up as well, because there is more time off school, which means we've got to spend more," she said.

Ms Hadi thinks she will have to work about an hour longer each day during the new 4.5-day working week. "But [we have] more family time."

Meanwhile, childcare providers and after-school clubs have noted a surge in inquiries for Friday afternoon from parents who will be at work while their children are off.

"We have had an increase for demand on Friday," said Joanna Dawson, childcare manager for Malaak Mama and Baby Care, a childcare agency.

Jump Sports Academies, which offers activities such as gymnastics and football, are preparing to add classes on Friday afternoons, said Mattias Bjork, its director of business development.

Carissa Valentim-Du Toit, childcare development manager at CloudNine Kids, a childcare company based in Dubai, said many parents working in the private sector will not be making the transition to the new 4.5-day working week, while others do not yet know what their employer plans to do.

"We believe that January will be a month of trial and error for everyone in the UAE," Ms Valentim-Du Toit said.

"[So people can] identify what works best in terms of their work and family responsibilities."

Updated: January 03, 2022, 6:37 AM