By Beatrice Thomas
Legislative council endorses plan to reduce working week with two-day weekend for private sector
Saudi’s Shoura Council on Monday voted to stick to a 40-work-hour week and a two-day weekend for private sector employees, it was reported.
In December, the legislative council endorsed a proposal to reduce weekly work hours for private sector employees from 45 to 40 hours with a two-day weekend, the Saudi Gazette reported.
However, last week it emerged that 15 members of the council were calling for the working week to be increased to 45 hours, or nine hours per day, claiming that a shorter week is largely for the benefit of expatriates.
An estimates 10 million expatriates work in the Saudi private sector.
Fahaad Al Hamad, assistant president of the council, said that the session, chaired by president Sheikh Abdullah Al Asheikh, decided to stick to the earlier decision, which also included an eight-hour work day.
He said work hours for Muslims during Ramadan cannot exceed 35 hours a week and more than seven hours a day, he said.
During debate, members who favoured a 40-hour working week pointed to international studies showing the positive impact of reduced work hours on workers’ social lives and health - resulting in an increase in efficiency and productivity.
“The study carried out by the International Labor Organisation in 2006 showed that more than half of the world relies on 40-hour week and that it did not have any adverse effect on productivity but instead it increased productivity and quality,” one member was quoted as saying.
Another member said that an increase in work hours would make jobs in the private sector less attractive to Saudi youths.
However, others said many expats had already signed contracts based on a 48-hour work week. Reducing it would make services and products more expensive, while forcing companies to hire more foreigners at a the kingdom was pushing its Saudisation agenda, they said.
Probably they will decide 48 hours for expatriates and 40 hours for Saudis.