On December 7, 2021, the federal government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that federal government departments are to change their weekly working hours effective January 1, 2022. Under the new working hours system, public sector employees at the ministerial level will work a four-and-a-half-day workweek. The Emirates News Agency has stated that this decision comes as part of the UAE government’s efforts to enhance work-life balance.
The new system allows federal government workers to work eight hours, between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., which is 90 minutes longer than under the current Monday-through-Thursday working hours. On Friday, the working hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Options for working from home on Fridays and for flexible work hours are available as well. The time for Friday religious sermons in mosques will also be amended to 1:15 p.m., after working hours are over. Saturday and Sunday will constitute the new weekend for government workers.
The local governments of the Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have also announced that they will follow the new working hours system. Furthermore, schools will amend their hours to be in conformity with the new system.
Following the federal government announcement to introduce new working hours, many private employers have stated they expect to follow the new system as well. The UAE minister of human resources has stated that he will not obligate the private sector to follow the new working hours system.
Regulation of Employment for Federal Government Employees
The Federal Authority for Government Human Resources is in charge of managing human resources for ministries and federal authorities. The authority was established in accordance with Federal Law No. 11 of 2008, issued by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE.
Federal Decree Law No. 11 of 2008 as amended by Federal Decree Law No. 17 of 2016 applies to employees in the public sector who receive their salaries from the federal budget. The law also applies to employees working at public cooperatives funded and owned by the federal government.
Federal Law No. 11 of 2008 regulates the following: the hiring of federal employees; annual performance evaluations; promotions; salaries; annual bonuses; transfers; retirement; training and development; leave; professional conduct and ethics; rules for receiving gifts; official holidays; termination of service; and conflicts of interest.
Reactions to Decision to Change Working Hours
Government officials and market experts have endorsed the federal government decision to amend the working hours system. Abdulrahman Al Awar, minister of human resources and emiratization, has declared that the decision will allow the UAE economy to be more competitive and engage in more business and trade in the world economy. Likewise, Ziad Daoud, a market economist, said the decision would make the UAE more attractive as a regional destination for foreign companies.