UAE to Shift Weekends to Saturday and Sunday; Becomes First Nation to Implement 4.5-Day Workweek

The change makes the Gulf Arab federation one of the few countries in the Middle East to operate on Western hours instead of on a Sunday through Thursday week.

In a major change, the United Arab Emirates announced on Tuesday that it will change it weekend to Saturday and Sunday, in line with the western schedules beginning next year. The UAE media in a tweet said that the official workweek will move to Monday to Friday. The change is for the public sector but the government has urged the private sector also to adopt the new workweek.

The change, which will take effect from January 1, 2022, makes the Gulf Arab federation one of the few countries in the Middle East to operate on Western hours instead of on a Sunday through Thursday week.

Big Change

UAE Pixabay

The shift is significant, given that Friday has long been a sacred day for worshippers of Islam. Most countries in the Gulf have Friday to Saturday weekends. The long-anticipated shift comes as the UAE, home to the coastal emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, seeks to bolster its business and tourist appeal while emerging from crisis of the coronavirus pandemic and facing stiffer regional competition, particularly with Saudi Arabia.

The new workweek comes with a lot of changes. It will be a four-and-a-half day work. Monday to Thursday workdays will start at 7.30am and end at 3.30pm. Friday working hours are from 7.30am to noon. Friday sermons and prayers across the Emirates will be held from 1.15 pm.

Moreover, government employees will have the flexibility to make arrangements to work from home on Fridays, as well as to arrange their working hours on a flexi-time basis.

"The new working week will also bring the UAE's financial sector into closer alignment with global real-time trading and communications-based transactions," the government statement read, adding that the new schedule aims to "boost not only trading opportunities but also add to the flexible, secure and enjoyable lifestyle the Emirates offers its citizens and residents."

In Line With Global Markets

Although the new schedule and workweek is only for the public sector, private organizations too are likely to soon adopt the new timings as they did in 2006, when the workweek changed from Saturday to Wednesday — an Islamic workweek followed in some Muslim countries, such as Iran and Afghanistan.

Understandably, the change has been made with the aim of giving a boost to the country's financial sector as the new workweek will better align the UAE with global markets, reflecting the country's strategic status on the global economic map.

This will help smooth trade, financial and economic transactions with other countries. Lebanon and Turkey also follow a Monday-Friday workweek.

Also, The Emirati government hailed the decision as making it "the first nation in the world to introduce a national working week shorter than the global five-day week" — a reference to Friday becoming only a half-day workday.

The UAE has lately been facing challenges from Saudi Arabia which has been trying to attract foreign companies as it tries to change its image from being known only as an oil-rich nation.

To further boost its brand as a cosmopolitan hub, the UAE has also made a series of changes to its penal code, based on Islamic law, or Shariah.