Both banking and the insurance sectors in the UAE have extensive government affiliations, whether as shareholders or clients. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE’s banking and insurance sectors should be among the first to move to the new workday and weekend change the UAE Government is bringing in from January 2022.

“The UAE Central Bank as a vital cog of the Federal Government will switch to a four-and-a-half day working week,” said a senior banking industry source. “It stands to reason that all the other operating banks in the country will follow suit – and much of this will happen overnight. The transition will be smooth.”

Abdulnasser Alshaali
"The flexibility offered by the new working week - and hours - enhances the UAE's position in a highly competitive international labour market," says Alshaali.

Since that means a two-and-a-half day weekend, will banks shut down by Friday afternoon as well? Or will they have a bare-minimum staff at the branches and HQs to carry on with the business until the usual closing hour of 3pm? (Many banks have evening counters too.)

Sources say that banks could make changes to staff working hours or bring on rotation schemes to offer services until the usual closing hours. Again, this requires only minor changes to the ways they are operating now.

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Job creators

Much the same will be the case with the insurance sector, where some of the biggest operators have sizeable stakes owned by the government. The insurance industry regulator, all of the government departments that insurers typically deal with on a constant basis, and even their corporate customers will have changed to the new Monday-Friday working week.

Amending the working week comes in a timely manner as it ensures better and stronger integration of the UAE's financial market with international financial markets. Such a change would enable businesses, especially ones with a global presence, to further align their operations on an international scale as part of the UAE's efforts to realise its economic and trade goals over the next 50 years.

- Abdulnasser Alshaali, UAE-based economist

“The government departments and services represent a sizeable chunk of the insurers’ business – the insurers will thus switch to the new working cycle at the earliest,” said an Abu Dhabi based insurance official. “With the business of insurance, it’s always local. If anything changes in the business cycle, insurers will be the first to change as well.”

In the next few days, banks, insurance companies and other private sector operators will make their plans clear on how they will adjust to the change from January. The UAE Government has made it clear that the private sector will have the flexibility to set their work-week and days off.

Equal perks
The banking and insurance sectors have been assigned the highest priority in creating new jobs for UAE Nationals. This makes it all the more vital that both sectors have the same work schedules and perks that a UAE National expects from a public sector position.

A clear winner

The UAE’s banking industry is seen as a winner from the change – it opens up Fridays when it comes to offering a host of services, from opening a letter of credit to signing off on a loan. “The change to a Monday start will mean banks and their clients – especially those dealing with overseas interests – will be in tune with the international banking system,” said the banker. “Earlier, everything had to be finished by Thursday and taken up on Monday when it came to international transactions.

“A Monday start to the week will change that.”

► UAE weekend change: find answers to all your queries