Saudi council votes to keep 40-hour working week

Members of the Shoura Council who opposed move to reduce working hours demand a revote

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Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council on Monday voted with a majority to stick to its earlier decision for a 40-work-hour week and a two-day weekend for private sector employees.

The 65th session of the Council had approved on Dec. 16 amendments in the Article 98 of the Labor Law in this regard. But some members of the Council, who opposed the move to reduce working hours to 40, demanded a revote.

Fahaad Al-Hamad, Assistant President of the Council, said that the session, chaired by its President Sheikh Abdullah Al-Asheikh, decided to stick to the earlier decision, which stipulates that no employee shall be asked to work more than 40 hours a week and the daily work hours shall not exceed eight hours.

The work-hours for Muslims in Ramadan shall not exceed 35 a week and more than seven hours a day, he said.

Earlier, taking part in the deliberations, members of the Council spoke in favor and against the Labor Law amendment. Those who favored 40-hour week drew attention to the international studies and experiments showing the positive impact of reduced work-hours on the social and health aspects resulting in an increase in efficiency and productivity.

“The study carried out by the International Labor Organization 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 said.

Echoing the same view, another member said that an increase in work-hours will make jobs in the private sector less attractive to Saudi youths. He cited some studies which said that Saudis were not attracted to the private sector because of long work-hours.

Some 16 members called for a re-vote on the issues of weekly work-hours and two-day weekend. They noted that there are about eight million expatriate workers with whom work contracts have been signed for 48-weekly work-hour, and reducing it would make all services and products more costly. This would also make housing expensive for Saudis up by 30 percent.

They voiced apprehensions that a reduced work-week might also result in hiring an additional 20 percent foreigners.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Feb. 4, 2014

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