“Once the prayer is over, disperse throughout the land and seek the bounty of Allah,” the Quran says about the all-important Friday prayer. Friday thus has not always been a rest day. It was only during the prayer and the sermon that people would stop working. Before and after the prayer, Muslim are encouraged to work and “seek the bounty of Allah”.
States are thus the appropriate entity that regulates work days and non-work days as per the public interest. With this view, the UAE government on Tuesday announced a major change in the working week, adopting a new four and a half day working week. The change is effective from Jan. 1, 2022.
The working week would start on Monday and end Friday at 12:00 PM to give ample time for the preparation and performing of the Friday prayer. From Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday are the new weekend. The new working hours will be from 7:30am to 3:30pm.
The new directive notes the Friday sermon and prayer across the UAE will be held from 1:15pm. Meanwhile, government employees “will have the flexibility to make arrangements to work from home on Fridays,” the directive says. (The rules for the private sector’s weekend are government by the Labour Law).
The new longer weekend is part of the UAE’s the 50th Plan to enhance work-life balance and the social well-being, while at the same time increasing work output in line with the nation’s economic and competitiveness plans. The UAE has thus become the first country in the world to have such a working week that is shorter than the universal five-day week.
The new move takes into account, from an economic perspective, the necessary alignment of the local markets with the global markets, international banks and financial institutions, ports and logistic companies to enhance the UAE’s position as a world and regional hub for business and trade. Financial and trade transactions will be smoother considering that most key global hubs follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend.
At the same time, the new weekend will offer a more flexible lifestyle for nationals and residents, more time with the family and longer rest in this increasingly faster and competitive working environment.
There might be some who think that Friday is exclusively a rest day and tend usually to link that with the Islamic tradition. That is a misconception. Quran is specific: Friday prayer, while sacrosanct, has specific timing. During the rest of Friday, the Quranic verse says, people are encouraged to “disperse throughout the land and seek the bounty of Allah.”
The new move is an innovative way to enhance the nation’s position in an increasingly competitive world and pave the way for the implementation of the ambitious milestones of the next 50 years.