Most people are opting to spend their vacations locally
Some UAE employees are avoiding taking a long annual leave to travel abroad and opting instead for a shorter vacation to spend locally, fearing that they might get stranded overseas due to constantly-changing travel restrictions.
The recruitment and HR industry say that employees are increasingly opting to spend their annual leaves locally since some companies have asked their employees to exhaust their annual leaves. But some employees have still accumulated a good number of annual leaves, as they were not able to travel abroad during the past two pandemic years.
“With new regulations to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the UAE and many countries imposing strict restrictions and lockdowns, employees are now rethinking their leave plans to avoid being stranded,” said Mayank Patel, country head of Adecco Middle East.
He pointed out that there might not be any change in annual leave policies of employees for now, as the spike in cases is also pushing back to the previous days of ensuring colleagues’ safety and work from home. However, in the best interest of the organisation and to ensure employees have a work-life balance, this may result in accommodating a part of their leaves to be adjusted.
Waleed Anwar, managing director of Upfront HR, suggested that it is wise for most people at the moment to stay in the UAE to avoid being stranded overseas. “This is the general opinion we are hearing from our clients in the UAE. Travelling will come with the risk of being stranded. In most cases, unless you are in a customer-facing role, most companies will offer employees the flexibility to work remotely to allow for continuous flow of work, wherever they are.”
Vijay Gandhi, regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Korn Ferry, believes that if the past 18 months have brought a huge change to the way many people work, then the coming years will bring an even greater revolution in working practices in the UAE.
“Location neutral jobs will lead to more flexibility. More offices will change in design to allow for this flexibility based on job and team demand. We will continue to see creative and different working ideas emerge and fit the new working environment,” he added.
The change in the working week in UAE, according to Gandhi, will also bring in a positive spin to the work from home culture. “Individuals are not rewarded by 9-5 or Monday-Friday parameters, but pegged to outcomes they are achieving on a regular basis. In general, the work environment will undergo a significant change, with remote working being part of the norm.”
Spending annual leave locally
Waleed Anwar added that now more than ever, UAE employees are spending more leaves locally due to restrictions on travel globally. “Because they’re afraid of being stranded overseas and not being able to return, so the leaves are definitely shorter and changing from the traditional long summer leaves we are used to taking in this country.”
Over the last two years of the pandemic, some employees have accumulated annual leave for not being able to travel due to Covid-19 restrictions while some employees have no annual leftover at all because employers encouraged them to take leave during the lockdowns, he added.
Starting January 1, 2022, the UAE government shifted its weekend from Friday-Saturday to mid-Friday until Sunday to help local businesses and also improve residents’ work-life balance.
“Change in weekends should not change how many leave days people are entitled to, because as per the UAE labour law, employees are entitled to 30 days’ leave after completing one year of employment, out of which 22 days are working days – which will still remain the same with the change in the weekend,” said Anwar.
People-intensive firms may change annual leaves
Recruitment and HR industry say that firms operating in the people-intensive industries, such as tourism, retail and hospitality, are likely to recruit more people with the change in the weekend. Such firms may also alter employees’ annual leave due to the Covid-19 pandemic and structure it in a way that would help them meet their targets and also benefits the employees.
“This new working week will definitely stir changes in many industries, such as F&B and hospitality business, to make arrangements in brunch and dining offers, Friday special offers, etc. They could also consider hiring additional staffing during the new weekend leading to new revenue opportunities in this sector,” said Patel.