Saudi’s Shoura Council is set to discuss the issue of its 40-hour work week on Monday after several members called for a re-vote on two issues in the controversial labour reform, it was reported.
In December, the legislative council endorsed a proposal to reduce weekly work hours for private sector employees from 45 to 40 with a two-day weekend, the Saudi Gazette reported.
However, last week it emerged that 15 members of the kingdom’s legislative 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.
About 10 million expatriates work in the Saudi private sector.
Abdul Rahman Al Zamil, Chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), was quoted as saying in a section of the Arabic press on Sunday that the council’s recommendations were not based on scientific studies.
“The Ministry of Labor, which is responsible for workers’ affairs, suggested that work hours should be 45 a week with a day-two weekend,” he said. “Why did the Council suggest a 40-hour week?”
Abdul Rahman Al Rashid, Chairman of the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a reduction in work-hours simply means an increase in expatriate remittances and hike in operational costs for businesses. Productivity will be affected and the employer will have to hire more workers to complete unfinished work, he said.
“It’s a matter of efficiency and productivity,” he said. “Before reducing weekly work-hours, we should study the effects of such a decision in terms of operational costs.”
The authorities planned to allow its private sector to have a two-day weekend on par with its public sector in a bid to lure nationals into private jobs. According to studies, many Saudis preferred working in the public sector mainly because of its shorter 35-hour work week.
The Shoura recommendations will become law once the Council of Ministers approve them. But some members invoked Article 21 of the Shoura law, which allows review of a decision prior to its submission to the King for endorsement.