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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: Businesses can now hire people for night shifts as the Kingdom shifts to 24-hour trading, with the government releasing the terms and conditions for employment.
The regulations are to make sure the rights of night shift workers are protected and that employers maintain a healthy work environment.
Night shifts run from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., according to a ministry statement on Twitter, and there should be a 12-hour rest period between every night shift for an individual worker. A shift rotation should take place in every organization every three months, enabling night shift workers to switch to day shifts after three months.
Employers are expected to provide medical insurance, as well as compensatory benefits in working hours and salaries. There should be no difference between day and night shift workers, and they should have equal rights, the Twitter statement said.
Some can be exempt from night shifts, including those with medically approved conditions, the elderly and those with familial obligations, as well as women who are 24 weeks pregnant.
Musa’ab Hariri, the founder of successful burger joint Crave with branches in Jeddah and Makkah, said he was willing to run his business on a 24-hour basis and that he supported the Ministry of Labor and Social Development’s initiative.
“In a way, it supports local manpower and it helps provide jobs to those who need them,” he told Arab News, but said the only issue that might arise was the familial obligation clause because local workers would struggle to accept night shifts because of such obligations.
Crave already operates until 2 a.m. and opens for longer on weekends and vacations. “Food and beverage businesses like ours are the ones that will benefit the most from it,” he said. “Operating for longer hours will offer opportunities for more workers and will increase revenue.”
The business has previously experimented with after-midnight-delivery, said Hariri, and sales picked up after a while although they were stale to begin with.
“People want variety, if you look at delivery services that actually operate late, you’ll come up short with a few fast food options. People want more, especially in cities with nightlife like Jeddah. We did well with delivery, so I’m optimistic about operating the restaurant as a whole.”
Saudi legal consultant Dimah Alsharif said the decision to allow commercial activities to operate throughout the day was directly related to enabling the quality of life concept that the Kingdom’s reform plan was working toward.
“On the commercial side, it will definitely stimulate commercial activity, its development and desired goals and targets,” she told Arab News. “Special care must be taken when applying these (night shift) hours to working women given their circumstances, especially since the labor code stipulates that women may not be employed during the evening period for at least 11 consecutive hours, unless a decision is issued by the minister specifying the exceptions.”
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