New UAE weekend: Does the country have the world’s shortest workweek?

Industry executives noted that the private sector would have no option but to switch to Saturday-Sunday weekends sooner or later


Waheed Abbas

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Photo: Wam
Photo: Wam

Published: Thu 9 Dec 2021, 1:11 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 Dec 2021, 2:34 PM

The UAE appears to have the shortest workweek in the world after local governments announced they would shift to a 4.5-day week from next year, according to some HR industry executives.

Many countries have conducted four-day week trials and the response has been fairly good. But no government has officially declared a workweek of less than five days. Nevertheless, many countries do have work hours that are less than the UAE’s work hours.

Industry executives noted that, as a result of the change in weekends from January 1, 2022, the private sector will have no option but to switch to Saturday-Sunday weekends sooner or later, in order to maintain work-life balance for employees.

“It would appear that the UAE now has the shortest permanent workweek for the public sector. Several countries around the world such as Scotland, Japan, New Zealand and Spain have introduced four-day week trials, which are proving to be successful,” said Deepa Sud, CEO at Plum Jobs, a boutique HR advisory, executive search and business skills coaching firm based in Dubai.

Managing director of Mindfield Resources Anurag Kumar agreed, but pointed out that several countries in the developed world have a workweek measured in hours — some as low as 26 hours. “So, it is not so much in the days, as it is in the hours at work,” he said.

Deepa Sud added that SMEs and large establishments in the private sector will eventually need to move to a Saturday-Sunday weekend.

As the UAE forges ahead with continuing to establish itself as a prominent business hub globally with such diverse business opportunities, its alignment of Saturday-Sunday weekends will significantly enhance its activities and productivity, as firms will be operating in the same global working week pattern.


“This will certainly enable businesses with international operations to operate more efficiently and quicker.”

Anurag Kumar also said that most companies would follow the local norms because the UAE is the hub for several MNCs or companies with large geographical footprints. “These regional entities are used to having different workweeks across Asian and African countries. Small or medium enterprises will flex based on market needs and nature of the industry,” he added.

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