x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Midday break grows longer by a month

The midday break will be extended by one month, meaning all outdoor work must stop between 12.30pm and 3pm for three months starting June 15, officials said yesterday.

A worker in Abu Dhabi makes the most of his break last July 1, the day it took effect in 2009.
A worker in Abu Dhabi makes the most of his break last July 1, the day it took effect in 2009.

DUBAI // The midday break will be extended by one month, meaning all outdoor work must stop between 12.30pm and 3pm for three months starting June 15, officials said yesterday. Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labour, said in a statement that the decision derives from the ministry's determination to protect workers' rights without sacrificing those of employers.

The midday break aims to give workers across the UAE a respite from the soaring heat during the hottest period of the day during summer. The break was first implemented in 2005 and workers were given a break from 12.30-4pm during July and August. It was shortened the next year by one hour, and since then no change had been made before yesterday's decree. The rule mainly affect construction workers, who make up more than 45 per cent of the more than four million workers in the private sector.

The adjustment in the rule would stipulate that the midday break would be enforced until September 15, which would include Ramadan. The rule also stipulates that there must be a shaded rest place for workers during the break. The ministry has imposed penalties on companies that do not adhere to the rule. √ For a first offence, the employer is fined Dh10,000 (US$2,700) and is banned from obtaining new labour permits for three months.

√ For a second offence, the punishment is doubled to a Dh20,000 fine and a six-month ban on permits. √ For a third offence, the company is fined Dh30,000 and is barred from obtaining new work permits for one year. This year the ministry has set up 18 inspection teams, which will work in all seven emirates to catch violators. However, the ministry may grant emergency exemptions. Humaid Bin Deemas, the ministry's acting director-general, said, "The ministry is going to guarantee the implementation of the rule through the increase of the number of the ministry's inspectors."

Mr Ghobash said he is expecting a high level of compliance among employers this year because of the increasing awareness of their responsibility towards their workers. Last year the ministry fined more than 650 companies for not adhering to the rule, but the overall commitment rate among companies reached 99 per cent, according to ministry of labour statistics. Ahmed Saif bel Hasa, the chairman of the UAE contracting association, welcomed the move and said the extension of the midday break as well as consulting with the construction sector before implementing the decision show the ministry's commitment to all stakeholders. @Email:wissa@thenational.ae