Eid in UAE: Should private sector have same holidays as public?

Amber J (name changed) is determined to enjoy her Eid holidays. She works in a private company but has planned to be off work for the same number of days as her friend would, who works in a government department.

“Why should I work hard when others will be enjoying themselves? This is unfair. I think the authorities should get strict with private companies and make sure that all employees are treated equally. If we don’t get equal days off, I’ll call in sick,” she told this website on the condition of anonymity.
As we approach Eid holidays, the debate on the difference in the number of holidays between the public and the private sector has resurfaced again. Aggrieved employees in the private sector are getting vocal about the need to give them an equal number of days off from work, as they believe fewer holidays only tantamount to low motivation at work.
Experts are divided on who should get what. Some believe that fewer number of holidays in the private sector leads to the feeling of being discriminated against. “There can be a feeling of resentment among private sector workers especially when many feel they are contributing equally to society and the economy through their hard work. It can make them question how much of their work is valued when they see public sector workers getting more holidays,” Hasnain Qazi, Middle East Business Manager at Huxley Associates told ‘Emirates24|7’.
“There are arguments for and against. However, it would certainly make it more fair and logistically easier for families to enjoy public holidays, especially where one spouse is working in the private sector and the other has the day off being a public sector employee,” he added.
However, there are others who think this is not at all realistic and feasible. “I would say ‘No’. It is very difficult to compare the two. The private sector is commercial, driven by shareholders and have targets to meet. Historically, we have seen this difference everywhere and this is not a new trend. It is not a realistic thing to happen,” said Louise Knight, Senior Consultant, HR Division at The Gulf Recruitment Group.
“I believe that the private sector needs to do business, and especially in this region, we do not have the chance to work 12 months. The actual productive months are almost only three quarters of the year, and the businesses need to make sure that they reach their targets. So, from my side, every day counts. I don’t regard this issue as ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’ treatment. I think, given the unstable economic environment, it is better to have a job than to fight for the holidays,” said Konstantina Sakellariou, Partner, Marketing & Operations Director at Stanton Chase. 
Unlike last year, experts believe that the job market is no longer stagnant and there will be instances where employees in the private sector will ask their bosses to grant them an equal number of holidays.
“Everybody was very scared last year. Having a job in hand was the most important thing then but we have moved on. I have asked my boss to give me equal number of holidays as my wife would get (she works in the public sector). We have plans and this is family time. I’m sure he will agree,” said an employee working in Media City.
Experts opine that employers in the private sector should not consider this a demand and be more accommodating as this leads to long-term benefits.
“This is not necessarily a demand. It is a review of the current set-up and a debate on the merits and demerits of equal holiday for all. From a social and economic perspective, this is a topic that merits an intellectual debate between the various stakeholders that uphold society's pillars,” explained Qazi.
Giving equal number of holidays can be beneficial as it will attract more Emiratis to join the private sector, they believe. “Many Emirati graduates are lured to the public sector because of the more relaxed working hours and extra holidays. If both private and public sector employees received the same amount of days off, this would probably result in more Emiratis applying to the private sector, which would benefit the Government's plan for improving Emiratisation quotas,” added the Huxley expert.


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