Still required to work on-site amid rain, some UAE employees put 'life at risk' for others

A KT poll of more than 10,000 readers found that 56% of respondents employed in the private sector were told to attend work in person despite the unstable weather

by

Waad Barakat

/

Ruqayya Al Qaydi

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Published: Wed 17 Apr 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 17 Apr 2024, 11:01 PM

As the UAE faces another bout of heavy rainfall and unstable weather, private sector employees are urging their employers to provide them with remote work opportunities, similar to their counterparts in the government sector.

Despite the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation's (MoHRE) recommendation for private sector companies to prioritise employees' safety, several employees woke up on Tuesday to find themselves obligated to commute to their offices.


Khider Adil, an employee at a private sector company in Abu Dhabi, made the difficult decision to work from home due to the hazardous weather conditions. "Leaving the house and driving in these current weather conditions would put my life and the lives of others at stake," Khider explained to Khaleej Times.

Khider Adil
Khider Adil

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He informed his workplace that he would not be able to make it to the office due to the intense rainfall and poor visibility. Fortunately for him, his company was understanding.

Shaima Abou Alsaad, an architect residing in Sharjah and working in Dubai, revealed the the struggles faced by professionals whose jobs require in-person meetings. "Meeting with clients to understand their requirements is a significant part of my job, requiring my presence," Shaima expressed. "However, my clients were also not considering going anywhere in this weather."

Shaima working from home
Shaima working from home

After persistently requesting the opportunity to work remotely, Shaima emphasised the need for a little flexibility in the private sector to accommodate such situations.

While some private sector employees grapple with the challenge of balancing professional commitments with safety concerns, others, such as healthcare workers, are unable to work remotely due to the nature of their roles. Mahra A, who works in the private healthcare sector in Abu Dhabi, stated, "The nature of my work necessitates my physical presence, and I cannot provide the same level of care remotely."

Workers in the private sector expressed their dissatisfaction regarding working from offices on Tuesday via social media. A netizen, @ohoudali20, posted a video while on the road heading to work, with the caption, “Rain, thunder, lightning, heavy rain. Workers in the private sector are still heading to work.”

And the poster continued the thread with another tweet that said: “Are those who work in the private sector immune to disasters?”

Survey says

An overwhelming majority of respondents to a Khaleej Times poll said that they were required to go to work in person on Tuesday and/or Wednesday.

More than 10,000 people took part in the poll conducted by KT, with only about 4,500 saying they were able to work from home. Of the remaining votes, more than 3,600 said they had to commute to workplaces as their employer wasn’t offering flexible work options, despite the unstable weather. And more than 2,000 said they had to step out of their homes as they worked in essential services.

As the first day of unstable weather conditions subsides, meteorological authorities have issued warnings of a second day on Wednesday. Rain, thunderstorms, lightning, and hail are all expected to occur in the area.

Wednesday proved to be another challenging day for private sector employees as more companies requested their staff to report to work despite the skies beginning to clear. However, the persistent waterlogging on the roads throughout the city posed a significant hurdle, making commuting an arduous task for the second consecutive day.

George T, a sales executive working for a Sharjah-based company, found himself caught in a dilemma.

"After a nine-day Eid break, there is immense pressure to meet sales targets," George explained. "My boss insists that all sales employees need to be out and about today to generate new business. On the other hand, my wife is deeply concerned about my safety and has been sharing stories of people and cars stranded across the city due to the overwhelming rains and subsequent transportation system disruptions. It's a difficult situation. Do I prioritise meeting targets or prioritize my safety?"

While remote work has been widely activated in government entities across the emirates, some exceptions exist for roles that require physical presence. One such example is Hisham, a 28-year-old resident of Sharjah who diligently attended his work despite the unfavourable weather.

Hisham's presence was requested due to his role in the Aman operation. Aman integrates a 24/7 fire alarm communicator system that enables Sharjah Civil Defence to centrally monitor, detect, and report fire alarms in various buildings across the city.

Hisham
Hisham

Hisham understood the significance of being physically present, especially during the rain and unstable weather conditions.

"It was very difficult to reach work, with the trip taking longer due to different routes. But I knew that today, of all days, I had to make it there," Hisham emphasised.

As private sector employees continue to advocate for equal remote work rights, the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) forecasts a gradual decrease in rainfall by evening, with conditions expected to improve further by Thursday.

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