Saudi weekend switch ‘very soon’ – top lawyer

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Saudi Arabia could switch to a Friday-Saturday weekend as early as this year, according to a top lawyer in Riyadh, following tentative approval from the kingdom’s Shoura Council earlier this month.

The GCC’s most populous nation currently operates on a Thursday-Friday weekend for the public sector, with workers for private businesses being entitled to just Friday off. This is in contrast to the other countries in the six-member bloc, which designate Friday-Saturday as their weekend.

“I do believe in the very near term we’re going to see Riyadh go to the Friday-Saturday weekend configuration from its current Thursday-Friday,” Kevin Connor, MENA co-ordinating partner for legal firm Squire Sanders, who is based in the Saudi capital, told Arabian Business. “It will probably become effective in January next year, to get people accustomed to it, or maybe in the fall.”

Oman is set to switch to a Friday-Saturday weekend on May 1 and Connor said that Saudi authorities would “wait and watch” to see how smoothly the switch goes in that country.

While discussions over changing Saudi Arabia’s weekend have been ongoing since at least 2007, it was only in April this year that the matter was put before the Shoura Council.

The legislative and consultative body recommended the switch, which will now be put before the Council of Ministers before being signed off by King Abdullah.

Connor said that discussions over changing the working week follow moves to also reduce the number of days private sector employees from six to five.

“Over the last month, I’ve seen – and this is telling – a move to go to the five-day working week for the private sector, which right now is [just] for the public sector,” he said.

“That’s all going to happen fairly soon, and the only way you can go for a five-day working week in the private sector is if you’re prepared to work on Thursday, and the only way you can go work on Thursday is if you change your week to conform with the rest of the GCC,” Connor added.

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