Federal government departments in the UAE are to change their working week from January 1, 2022, with much of the country expected to follow suit.
Public sector workers at the ministerial level will adopt a four and a half day working week, with employees working Monday to Thursday. There will be a half day on Fridays.
Saturday and Sunday will be the new weekend for government workers.
The Dubai and Abu Dhabi governments said their employees would adopt the same hours. The National understands all schools will move to the same working week on the first day of term, with hours expected to be announced soon.
The decision "will better align the Emirates with global markets, reflecting the country’s strategic status on the global economic map", the UAE Government Media Office said.
The new long weekend will "boost productivity and improve work-life balance".
No specific instructions or guidance was made relating to the private sector, but companies do not require the government's permission to set their working week.
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 will improve their position," he said.
"This decision will allow the UAE economy to be more competitive.
"It will eliminate the weekend gap – and it was much longer gap in the past. It will allow more business and exchange of trade with the world economy."
It will be for companies to decide whether they want to give employees a shorter working week.
"They can choose to have the shorter working hours if that's company's wish, but they cannot exceed [the 48-hour working week maximum]," Dr Al Awar added.
Nabil Alyousuf, chief executive officer of Dubai-based International Advisory Group, said the decision will benefit the business community over time.
“This will increase the number of days we do business with the rest of the world, which will boost trade," he said.
Landmark change to mosque timings
The new system will mean federal and many local government workers will work from 7.30am to 3.30pm - 90 minutes longer than at present - on Monday to Thursday and from 7.30am to noon on Friday. There is the possibility of flexible working and work-from-home options on Fridays, officials said.
Friday sermons and prayers will be held at 1.15pm throughout the year.
The country's working week last changed in 2006, when it was moved from Thursday-Friday to the current Friday-Saturday pattern. The move brought the Emirates in line with global markets at a time when the economy was growing rapidly.
The private sector, and public and private schools, shifted their working pattern on the same day in September 2006.
Between 1971 and 1999, the country had an official six-day working week, with just Friday as a government-mandated day off.
Thursday was added to create a two-day weekend in 1999.