UAE embraces 4.5-day work week for public entities, shifts weekend to Sat-Sun like rest of the world

Most Gulf states traditionally have Friday to Saturday weekends.

Jason Fan | December 08, 2021, 12:25 PM

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be transitioning to a four-and-a-half day working week, starting in 2022.

The country will also shift to a weekend that falls on Saturday and Sunday, in order to better align its economy with global markets, according to state media Emirates News Agency.

Work day will end at noon on Fridays

Most states in the Middle East have weekends from Friday to Saturday, rather than the usual Saturday to Sunday in many other countries worldwide, as Friday is considered a sacred day for Muslims.

Now, the UAE will be the first Gulf state to break away from the Sunday to Thursday work week, although Friday will remain a half-day, with work ending at noon before Muslim prayers begin.

The new change will apply to government entities, including schools, starting on Jan. 1, 2022.

However, this will not apply to the private sector.

According to the UAE Government Media Office, there will be a possibility of flexible working hours and work-from-home options on Fridays.

It also said that the longer weekends will boost productivity and improve work-life balance.

Tourism may benefit as well

The Emirates News Agency said that adopting an "agile working system" will enable the UAE to rapidly respond to emerging changes and enhance well-being in the workplace.

It also said that from an economic perspective, the new working week will better align the UAE with global markets, facilitating stronger international business links for UAE-based and multinational companies.

While the new changes will not apply to the private sector, an economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Monica Malik, told Reuters that many private sector companies in the UAE are expected to follow the new Saturday to Sunday weekend, describing it as a "very meaningful development".

Mohammed Ali Yasin, chief strategy officer at Al Dhabi Capital, also told Reuters that the financial sector would benefit from the move, and suggested that the tourism industry would be another beneficiary of this change.

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