The UAE's annual midday break policy is taking effect on June 15 — but, with temperatures reaching summer highs recently, a number of companies have already started giving their staff shorter duty hours during the day even before the official announcement.
Mohammed Shain Khan, a 23-year-old Bangladeshi construction worker at Gulf Way Group, said these noontime breaks "are a much-needed blessing".
“Taking note of the temperature, our company has already started with the noon breaks which provide us with a valuable opportunity to recharge,” said Khan.
From June 15 to September 15, working in open spaces under direct sunlight is not allowed from 12.30pm to 3pm daily, according to the UAE's mid-day break policy.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (Mohre) also said that daily working hours shall not exceed eight during the months of the ban. If an employee is made to work more than eight hours a day, the additional period will be considered overtime and the employee would be entitled to compensation.
A fine of Dh5,000 for each worker will be imposed on employers who will be caught violating the rules. Penalties could reach Dh50,000 when multiple staff members are made to work during the banned hours.
Sabir Ahmad, a 27-year-old worker residing at Serve Hub accommodation at DIP 2, said the break helps them fight exhaustion and even reduces risks of injuries. This is all because they are allowed to rest for nearly three hours.
“Working under the scorching sun and performing physically demanding tasks could be draining," said the Bangladeshi expat.
Henry, Joshwa, and Gift from Ghana, who all work at Accomplished Cleaning Services, are delighted to return to their beds and rest — thankful to their company which also started implementing the short noontime break.
“Having a mid-day break allows us to cool down, take a breather, and replenish our energy levels. It's a precious time for us to rehydrate, eat a proper meal, and regain our focus for the remainder of the day. I consider it a blessing because it acknowledges the efforts we put into our work and shows that our employers value our health and well-being," the expats said.
Why working under the sun could be harmful in summer
Doctors in the country have long praised the UAE's initiative that help keep workers safe during summer. Direct exposure to sunlight this season could cause multiple diseases and conditions, they noted. Here are some of them:
This happens when one's body temperature exceeds the normal range and can no longer be tolerated. “This leads to dizziness, fever, nausea, fatigue, weakness, hallucinations and eventually can lead to death,” said Dr Mohamed Zedan, family medicine specialist at NMC Royal Hospital Sharjah.
Exposure to ultraviolet rays can lead to skin cancer. It can start in a small area and then metastasise to vital organs like bone and lungs.
This can happen due to excessive loss of fluid and minerals which would lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, and muscle cramps, and if not corrected for prolonged periods, it can cause kidney failure.
These are usually first-degree burns that are really painful and tender to the touch.
Doctors say the mid-day break and rest give workers two benefits. “Firstly, avoiding the heat peak and the worst time of the day with high ultraviolet concentration can lead to avoidance of heat strokes, burns, skin cancer, and dehydration. Secondly, break time makes the worker more comfortable and rehydrated, making him ready for the work resumption with a high level of energy and comfort and that would lead to more focus and better production of course,” said Dr Zedan.
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