Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Many private sector companies have started giving their employees two days off a week in anticipation of a government decision that could force the sector to adhere to a five-day workweek.
The Ministry of Labor is expected to submit the results of its dialogue with businesses, employees and other government departments to King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
At least two new companies officially sanctioned two days off a week for their employees, local newspapers reported.
Employees in some other private companies were quoted as saying that serious discussions were taking place in their HR departments on whether to follow suit.
Saad Al-Ajlan, chairman of Al-Ajlan Holding Company, said his company was determined to grant its employees in the administrative departments two days off a week based on the vision of the Ministry of Labor.
The Saudi Recruitment Company has taken a similar action. Its CEO Saad Al-Baddah said the decision came of the company’s desire to motivate its employees and raise productivity.
He did add that daily working hours would be increased from eight to nine. Granting two days off a week should make the private sector more attractive to prospective employees, he claimed.
He called on other private companies to follow suit.
Adel Fakieh, Minister of Labor, said earlier the dialogue his ministry organized was to discuss possible changes to weekly working hours and weekends for employees in the private sector.
Discussions involved employee representatives, employers and the state and also covered employment challenges.
Fakieh explained that many programs were implemented, including making certain shops staffed by women only, while others were being implemented including the changes to working hours.
The minister had stressed earlier that anyone who did not fully adhere to any of the royal decisions would be prosecuted.
An exploratory study prepared by the Ministry of Labor had recently concluded the need to standardize and reduce working hours to 40 hours a week in both the public and private sectors.
The study also concluded that extending the weekend to two days would attract more Saudis to work in the private sector.
People interviewed in the study supported the adoption of a standard set of working hours for all people in the Kingdom and said it would be inappropriate to start work before 8 A.M.
Results of the study showed that there was a desire from respondents to keep the current working hours, while others supported a reduction and standardization of office working hours in both the public and private sectors.
The study also showed keeping the current working hours would mean employees would be less productive, reducing them would encourage citizens to join the private sector and that employees found it hard to get any government-related paperwork done except on their solitary day off.
Some respondents said the long working hours was the main reason young Saudis did not want to work in the private sector, while others believed decreasing working hours would lead to reduced monthly incomes.