New UAE Workweek; What Employers Should Expect

new UAE workweekAuthorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)  announced a new UAE workweek for public sector employees reducing the workweek to four and a half days, with the weekend running from Friday afternoon to Sunday. However, private-sector employers will likely shift to a full five-day Monday – Friday working week. 

The new, official working week applies in federal government departments from January 1, 2022. Authorities also confirm all schools and universities will operate Monday to Friday on a four and a half-day working day basis as well.

Do the Changes Extend to The Private Sector?

Officially, no. There are no formal announcements from the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation (MOHRE) that the changes extend to the private sector nor any indication that the shift to a Monday-Friday working week will be formalized in an official circular. Private-sector employers are therefore not currently obliged to change their working patterns.

Potential Impact on The Private Sector

Interestingly, this announcement for the public sector comes shortly after the recent enactment of the Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021, a new labor law in the UAE (the New Labor Law) that comes into force on February 2, 2022. This law no longer specifies Friday as the weekly rest day for employees and therefore, private sector employers will have the necessary flexibility to effect changes to work patterns as needed. In light of this, and given operational hours for schools, universities and the courts will be restricted to working hours from Monday to Friday (and no longer Sunday) going forward, it is expected the majority of private-sector employers will align their respective weekly work schedules to those within the public sector beginning January 1, 2022.

In the absence of a formal ruling or circular by MOHRE, our view is that employers will shift towards a full five day Monday to Friday working week with scope for employees who wish to attend Friday congregational prayers, to work from home, remotely or be provided with an extended break to attend prayers.

Nexus believes private sector employers will not implement a four and a half-day working week in practice (and certainly not where a reduction in salary has not first been agreed to with the employee). With the increased flexibility introduced under the new labor law, which acknowledges flexible worker roles,

What Actions Need to be Taken?

There are no actions for those employers who do not wish to change or reduce their working week (as there is no corresponding legal obligation to do so). However, for those employers (it is anticipated this will be the majority of companies in the private sector), who wish to adjust the working week pattern for their employees to a Monday-Friday schedule and in some cases, may wish to implement adjustments to working hours (or introduce remote working arrangements), the following should be considered:

  • Contractual/Policy Amendments
    • Changes to the weekly work pattern are likely to constitute a change to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment and must be agreed to by the employee. This may require amendments to individual employment contracts or company policies to ensure employees’ respective working hours or work patterns are accurately reflected. In the UAE, the general principle is that changes to the employment contract must be agreed to in writing by the employer and each affected employee.
  • Consultation/Risks?
    • While there is no strict obligation to consult with employees prior to introducing a contractual change, it may be prudent to consult from an employee relations perspective. Note: Under the new law discrimination against an employee on the basis of religion and gender (amongst a number of other protected characteristics) is prohibited. Employers will therefore need to be mindful of this when considering remote working and extended rest break requests for Muslim employees who need to attend congregational prayers on a Friday (particularly in light of the UAE being an Islamic country and general public policy towards Friday prayers). Employers will also need to give consideration to requests from employees who need to work remotely to facilitate childcare / accommodate travel from schools, as the school day is expected to be a half-day on Fridays as of January 1, 2022.
    • If an employee refuses to agree to a change to working hours/adjustments to the weekly work schedule, the employer will need to consider whether it is appropriate to terminate the employment relationship (and consider the basis for doing so under the new labor law).


Nexus, Asinta’s employee benefits consulting Partner in the UAE provided this article about the new UAE workweek.