Equal UAE public holidays a 'big leap' forward, recruiters say

This year and the next, each UAE worker will be entitled to 14 public holidays regardless of their employer

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The UAE's decision to standardise public and private sector holidays represented "a big leap forward", recruiters said on Wednesday.

Most employment firms welcomed this week’s announcement, designed in part to encourage more Emiratis to consider joining the private sector.

Traditionally, UAE nationals have tended to opt for government roles over positions in private companies due to better working hours, more holidays and higher salaries.

Although there are signs this is now changing, many Emiratis remain convinced that public sector jobs still offer more profitable, risk-free careers.

“It’s a big leap forward in perception which is much needed,” said Vijay Gandhi, a Dubai-based director for consultancy firm Korn Ferry.

“It encourages nationals to not think about the extra holiday entitlement benefit in the public sector.”

The UAE government took the decision to grant private sector workers the same number of public holidays as government employees on Tuesday.

This year and the next, each worker, regardless of their employer, will be entitled to 14 public holidays, although this figure may change after 2020.

The announcement is understood to have been made as part of official efforts to highlight the benefits of private sector employment.

It comes as the Emirates, as well as the wider Gulf Region, has increasingly recognised the importance of a robust private sector in a post-oil economy.

Toby Simpson, chief executive of Striver, a UAE employment site, said while salary remained a key motivator for employees, how patriotic a particular role was considered to be was also a significant factor for Emiratis.

“Any levelling of the playing field is a positive,” said Mr Simpson, in reference to the public holiday announcement.

But he said Emiratis “very frequently want to see that prospective employers are having a positive impact on UAE society”.

“Employers should consider this when marketing themselves to prospective Emirati candidates,” he said.

Khaled AlBlooshi, 20, a media and political science student, said he worked as a bank teller from 2pm to 8pm six days a week while completing his education.

He said he enjoyed the job, the hours of which allowed him to work around his busy study schedule.

“What encouraged me to work in the private sector were the hours,” he said. “It's fun and I’ve loved the experience.

“The most important thing for me was that the private sector offered night shifts which the government sector doesn't have. I would encourage other Emiratis to give it a try.”

But Mariam Alshaloubi, 19, a student at UAE University, said standardising public holidays would not make the private sector any more attractive to her.

“The private sector has its own way of working while the government sector has eight to nine hour-long work days,” she said.

"People have to work day and night and work extra hours in the private sector."

She said that if the holidays, as well as working hours, are the same in both sectors, she might consider working in the private sector.

"The salary isn't a factor. I think the private sector would attract people by the same criteria that the government sector has."