DUBAI // Private sector employees have welcomed a suggestion by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister, for a two-day weekend - but many employers described the proposed move as "catastrophic".
At the Government summit in Dubai on Tuesday, Sheikh Mansour said: "The Minister of Labour has been assigned to adjust the working hours and days of the private sector to be more compatible with those of the public sector."
The current law grants only one day off work a week for private sector workers, but Government employees have two days off and are also given longer public holidays.
The gap in salaries has also dissuaded many Emiratis from joining the private sector, and the adjustment is hoped to make positions in private companies more appealing.
"I want to work in the Government sector, most probably in oil and gas, because the private sector only has a one-day weekend," said Mohamed Al Mazrouei, 26, an unemployed Emirati with a high school diploma. "I would want to join the private sector if I could get the same benefits as the Government sector does, including better pay and a two-day weekend."
His younger brother, Saif Al Mazrouei, 24, who has a bachelor's degree in finance, recently started applying for jobs. "I want to be employed in Abu Dhabi Investment Authority," he said. "My focus is on finance and I think that would be a good place for me to start."
The private sector should have better benefits to attract people into applying for them, he said. "Many people need jobs nowadays, and it's a good initiative to have the private and public benefits equalised," he said.
Mansour Al Mansouri, 27, who has high school diploma, has been looking for a job for five years. "I need a two-day weekend because that will be the time I see my family. If I have one day only I will be too tired to look after my farm."
Although many of the big companies give their employees two-day weekends, there are many - in banks, retail and construction - who have a one-day weekend.
Mohamed Salem has been working six days a week in a bank for the past four years. "Having a two-day weekend will give me a chance to have quality time with my family," he said. "If I get Saturday's off I will consider it Eid."
But enthusiasm over the two-day weekend was not supported by many employers. Ali Al Baddad, who owns a construction company with 190 employees, the majority of whom are labourers, said: "One of the first issues that need to be clarified is whether labourers would also be granted this long weekend, as this would be mean difficulties in meeting the project deadline. The extension of the weekend would be catastrophic," he said.
Khalifa Al Jaziri, is the director of Owner of E-home automation, a company that offers smart home technologies and energy solutions, which employs about 100 people. He said workers cannot work longer hours due to many reasons, including the heat and lighting on site.
"Increasing the working hours is not a solution as it will also have a catastrophic impact on traffic as it would mean everyone leaving at the same time and putting burden on the city's road," he said.