Working hours in the UAE as per Labour Law

working hours in UAE

Last Updated on August 8, 2023 by bhakti

The hours you work significantly impact your daily productivity, mood, and health. As UAE hopes to become one of the happiest countries in the world, its legislators have turned their attention toward working hours. Working hours in UAE have been at the high end, but recent changes in the lower working hours have brought them down.

If you are working or plan to work in the UAE, it is important to know about the rules set by the government in terms of working hours. Here are some important points to keep a note of:

What Are the Working Hours in UAE as per Labour Law?

The source of working hours in UAE and other employment regulations is the Federal Law No 8 of 1980, the UAE Labour Law. Other parts of the Labour law apply at certain times. 

The rules in the law apply to all employees in the UAE, with the exceptions of the following:

  • Government and municipal workers
  • Army and the police
  • Domestic servants
  • Agricultural workers

Different laws also apply to the financial free zones within the region. Examples are the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). 

Regular Working Hours in UAE

So what are the regular working hours in UAE? Private sector working hours in UAE are currently set to:

  • maximum 48 hours per week
  • a maximum of 8 hours a day

These are set by Article 17 of the Federal Decree Law No 33 of 2021 on the Regulation of Labour Relations in the Private Sector. 

These daily working hours could increase or decrease in specific industries. The Executive Regulations of the Labour Law specify these. Typically, these include particular sectors where it would be impossible to either work eight hours per day without endangering or where it’s not safe to cut the working day at the eight-hour mark. 

During working hours, employees are legally allowed to have one or more breaks when they work for five consecutive hours. The breaks shouldn’t be shorter than one hour.

For example, if you have to work for five hours without a break, you should have a one-hour break. You could have more frequent shorter breaks that together amount to at least an hour. 

Special rules apply to summer months for outdoor workers. Between mid-June and mid-September, outdoor workers shouldn’t work in direct sunlight between 12.30 pm and 3 pm. Hours should be divided into two shifts; one in the evening and one in the morning. 

These breaks should be calculated within working hours. 

For the public sector, the regular working hours in UAE look a lot different. The UAE federal government uses a four-and-a-half-day working week. This means that public sector employees work eight hours from Monday to Thursday and then four and a half hours on Fridays. 

The official off days for federal government workers are Saturdays and Sundays. 

These public sector rules apply to local government entities in:

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Dubai
  • Umm Al Quwain
  • Ras Al Khaimah
  • Fujairah

The employees of the Government of Sharjah work four hours a week, with the official weekend lasting for three days, from Friday to Sunday. 
Overtime and Extended Working Hours

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But what about overtime? Many employers and employees might be worried about the need to do overtime and the compensation they would receive. 

According to the labour law that sets the working hours in UAE, private sector employees can ask the worker to work overtime. The law states that employers can ask the employee to work extra, as long as these extra hours do not exceed two hours in one day. It is vital to know that employers can’t force overtime (in most cases), but an agreement with the employee is required. 

If the worker is required to work beyond the regular working hours, they will receive remuneration. The extra time remuneration equals regular working hours (based on basic salary). The basic salary is then increased by 25% or 50% if the overtime is done between 10 pm and 4 am.

The rules are not applied to shift workers such as nurses or doctors. 

If the employer has to ask the worker to work on their off day, then they shall receive a substitute rest day. Alternatively, they should receive pay equal to regular working hours’ remuneration plus 50% of that pay. 

Weekly Rest Days and Annual Leave

In UAE, Friday is considered an official day off in the private sector. All the other days could be work days. However, some companies run a five-day week while others might opt for a six-day one.

Employees who are asked to work on Friday are entitled to a substitute rest day or 150% of the standard wage. 

Annual leave length can depend on your time at the company. The rules state that:

  • Employees who’ve worked with the employer for over a year are entitled to annual leave of 30 calendar days.
  • Employees who’ve worked with the employer between six months and a year are entitled to two days for each month worked.
  • The employer decides when employees can take annual leave.
  • Employees are paid during the period of annual leave. 

On public holidays, workers should receive full pay. If they are asked to work on a public holiday, they should receive a substitute day off and 50% of their daily wage or a payment of 150%. 

It’s also worth noting that if a public holiday falls within the period of annual leave, the employee isn’t entitled to receive an additional day off. You also won’t receive any ‘extra’ days off if you are sick during the annual leave. 

Your employer can require you to work during the annual leave, but only if:

  • You can then carry the yearly break over to the following year.
  • You are paid based on the basic wage plus a leave allowance for days worked.

You can also be asked to work annual leave once every two years. 

There is no required compassionate leave in the UAE. However, many private-sector employers will use their discretion regarding a request. 

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Special Circumstances and Exemptions

The general working hours are straightforward to understand. But employers need to be aware of exceptional circumstances. 

The biggest of these is Ramadan. During the holy month, employees have lower working hours in UAE. The regular working hours drop from 8 to six hours a day

The reduction applies to all private sector employees, excluding DIFC and ADGM. These reduced hours apply even if the worker isn’t a Muslim or fasting. 

So the maximum working hours in UAE during Ramadan are:

  • 36 hours per week
  • 6 hours per day

Similarly, overtime rules stay the same. But because the working hours are reduced, the overtime charges apply after the 7th hour if the employee has a one-hour lunch break. 

The DIFC and ADGM have different employment legislation. For instance, the reduced working hours during the holy month of Ramadan only apply to Muslim employees in the DIFC. In the ADGM, reducing working hours apply only to Muslim employees who observe the fast. Employees can also voluntarily choose to work more than six hours. 

The two-hour reduction also applied to public sector employees. 

The general working hours and overtime rules also do not apply to high-level managerial or supervisory workers. 

If you’re considered Hajj as an employee, you should know that you are entitled to 30 days of leave. However, this leave is unpaid and can be granted only once in employment. 

Read More: Working Part-time in the UAE

Enforcement and Penalties

What about enforcement and penalties? Companies should continually update their payroll software with local laws to ensure compliance. 

Disputes related to employment and working hours in UAE are referred to the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE). 

The UAE Labour Law protects employees against discrimination in the workplace based on certain things, such as religion. There are no specific penalties attributed to discrimination. Still, employers could be liable to pay fines between AED 5,000 and AED 1,000,000 for breaching the law.

Recent Changes and Updates

The UAE labour law has changed quite a bit recently. The changes have been to the working hours and length of the working week. The most recent change occurred in 2022 when the public working week was shortened to four and a half working days.

Employers are also required to provide labourers about their rights and obligations. The ‘Know Your Rights’ program is a new scheme to help assure foreign workers aren’t exploited. 

Best Practices for Employers and Employees in UAE

There are a lot of moving parts to working hours in UAE. While the UAE Labour Law is evident in the requirements, it does fall to the employer always to ensure compliance. Setting up reasonable procedures is crucial to guarantee things run smoothly and that employees feel heard and respected.

You need to ensure you monitor working hours and paid time off. We recommend opting for comprehensive payroll software to keep your payroll running smoothly. A system like Bayzat will ensure you track all individual hours, calculate accurate pay in cases of overtime, and you allow employees to take time off when needed. 

The best thing about a comprehensive software system is that it can automatically keep updated with the latest developments. You can ensure full compliance without constantly monitoring the ins and outs of the labour law. 

With a sound payroll system, you can also better promote a healthy work-life balance. Employee well-being needs to make sure they take adequate rest between work days and weeks. Studies have shown that happier employees tend to be more productive. Pairing your payroll with employee benefits is a good idea.

Finally, you do want to set up a system to handle disputes. It is vital that employees have access to the HR department and that they can voice their opinions regarding working hours and the like. You want them to be aware of things like lower working hours in UAE or paid time off so that they know you’re not disrespecting their time. A feedback channel is essential for voicing concerns. You can then solve these issues before you think about things like the official regulatory bodies for disputes.


Working hours in UAE can seem complex at the outset. But they are there to promote the interests of both the employer and the employees. By implementing a sound payroll system, you can always ensure compliance with the rules. The UAE labour law has been in flux recently, as the country has realized the importance of a healthy work-life balance. There is still room for improvement, and it is interesting to see what will happen in the future!