Dubai: The leading names in UAE’s private sector will over the next few days announce their plans for the switch to a new weekly work cycle – but flexibility will be the key for all of them. That includes the prayer break set for Fridays.
The Dubai-based building materials and real estate focussed Danube Group is among the first to confirm that it will have a new start to the working week - that is Monday - from January. But, the Group intends to retain its two-day weekend (on Saturdays and Sundays) rather than have a two-and-a-half one starting Friday afternoon.
“On Fridays, we will give a two-hour break from 12pm-2pm for the prayer break, but will work in full those days,” said Rizwan Sajan, Group Chairman. “We are a 4,000 strong workforce and the changes to a Monday-Friday work week can be done without too much sweat at our UAE head office. The retail stores will work as usual, and our building material operations will be in sync with market needs.”
The change applies, obviously, only to the company’s UAE operations, where it derives 50 per cent of its turnover. As for its operations in the other Gulf states, it will be status quo. “To handle those operations, we will have a certain number of staff available on a need-to basis,” said Sajan. “Plus, we will rotate the staff working on Sundays.”
Match Govt. changes
UAE’s private sector will have all the flexibility on setting their weekends under the revised government programme. The next two weeks will see many businesses, big and small, decide on the best approach. Prospects are that the big government-affiliated enterprises – whether in real estate, energy, services, etc. – will opt to go two-and-a-half weekend.
Also, HR sources say that these businesses will want to remain the best options for UAE National talent seeking jobs in the private sector as opposed to joining the government.
“Most large corporations are planning to move to Saturday-Sunday weekend in some form or the other,” said Vijay Gandhi, Regional Director at the consultancy Korn Ferry. “They are deliberating how to manage the working hours in the 4.5 or 5 days in ways that will not impact productivity or customer service (which differs by industry).
Counting the overtime
“Most of the workforce in the UAE are on 40- to 48-hour contract. The 4.5 days may mean 37 to 40 hours per week, which is in line with international best practice. It may not necessarily require changing contractual agreement because it’s within the existing framework."
‘Gulf News’ reached out to leading UAE healthcare operators, and also among the bigger employment creators in the country. HR sources say they are still deciding what needs to change and how.
But given the essential nature of the sector and its 24x7 operational needs, healthcare operators will likely retain the same work day-weekend patterns. (Even then, there are other internal dynamics they will have to contend with, because nursing staff typically get one-day off. At many clinics, doctors too have a one-day off routine.)
Vary by sector
How businesses and the private sector end up making changes to adjust with the new work week-weekend will depend on what type of activity they are in. For healthcare and retail sectors, it will likely be business as usual is what market sources say.
The biggest changes will happen at those business intimately connected with what’s happening elsewhere – for instance, the banking and financial services – as well as in tech and the energy industry. For them, the shift to the international weekend does make things easier.
As for the rest, change will come on a case-by-case basis.
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