Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims the world over. In the UAE, people are expected to respect local customs irrespective of the religion to which they belong. Dressing conservatively and refraining from eating and drinking in public spaces are some of the courtesies that UAE residents should extend during the holy month.
As far as businesses are concerned, it is important to maintain a balance between profitability and employee concern. Below we list several ways in which businesses can support their employees during Ramadan. Read on to know how you can make it easier for your employees to balance both work and fasting.
1. Managing Reduced Working Hours
The UAE government has mandated reduced working hours (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for public organisations and a two-hour cutback for the private sector) all through the holy month. What’s also important to note is that this provision applies to all members of the workforce and not just to Muslims or those who are fasting.
Work is generally slow during Ramadan and you should try to adjust the pace of your business accordingly. But if you need to meet urgent deadlines, it is possible to ask your employees to put in extra hours subject to the payment of overtime wages.
Articles 65-68 of the UAE Labour Law lay down how overtime rate is calculated. Article 67 says that employees who work beyond their stipulated hours must receive their ordinary hourly wage plus a minimum of 25% of that amount as their overtime pay. Article 68 mentions that employees working beyond stipulated workhours between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. must receive their ordinary hourly wage plus at least 50% of the said amount.
Although the rules do not forbid you from seeking extra work from employees, it is best to avoid it if you can. In case it is essential you should keep it to a minimum in terms of both days and workhours keeping in mind the challenges of your employees.
2. Leave Requests
Ramadan is a time of personal refection, self-control, kindness, and spiritual purification. It is not unusual to receive leave requests from employees who wish to spend their time in prayer. In case you receive such requests, you may do a check of the workload and sanction leaves accordingly. This is a small but significant way to tell your employees that the management truly cares for them.
3. Flexible Timings
Employers should offer flexible timings to their employees to allow them to practise fasting and other religious obligations during Ramadan. Many employees may also desire to break their fast at home together with their family. You could offer such employees the option to start work early so that they can leave for home on time. At a time like this, with the pandemic still raging, you may also consider the extension of work-from-home facilities during Ramadan and beyond.
4. Rest Breaks
Employers should consider offering extended rest breaks for workers to help them cope with work during Ramadan. Because fasting employees tend to get exhausted quickly, providing them with frequent breaks can ensure that the employees are physically and mentally better off. Those manning heavy machinery or involved in dangerous tasks should be handled carefully or shifted to a different role.
5. Office Culture
As far as non-Muslim employees are concerned, the organisation should implement policies to sensitise them about appropriate behaviour at the workplace. Sensitisation programmes should highlight the importance of refraining from eating and drinking in the common areas. Designate a different room for meals for your non-Muslim employees and try to refrain from consuming food and drinks during meetings which are attended by fasting employees.
Going long hours without food and water naturally affects the concentration and productivity levels of your employees. It is important to sensitise your non-Muslim workforce towards this fact and train them to be patient while dealing with their counterparts who are fasting.
While businesses are within their rights to expect that the work is completed in a professional manner on time, they must also ensure that the faithful can engage in the spirit of Ramadan without hassle. To this end, employers should issue notices to employees informing them of the change in work hours and sensitise expatriate workers to the expected behaviour during Ramadan.
Ramadan is a time for quiet reflection when the pace of life slows down. Businesses should make provisions for reduced workload to facilitate religious obligations during the holy month.