Employer

E-flash: “Ramadan: should an employer adjust its HR?”

This year, Ramadan falls between April 2 and May 1 and traditionally ends with the Sugar Festival, a period of reflection and fasting between sunrise and sunset for Muslim employees.

QUESTION

Should employers implement certain adjustments in their HR policies for employees who participate in Ramadan?

NO LEGAL OBLIGATION

Nopethere is no legal obligation to do so.

Under the terms of article 20, 5° of the law on employment contracts, an employer is in fact required to grant the employee the time necessary to fulfill his duties of faith. But under anti-discrimination law, an employer is not required to provide an exception or adjustment because of a person’s religion.

Concretely, this means that an employer:

  • cannot prohibit an employee from taking the time to pray during his break (unless this would endanger the safety of the employee himself and of other employees, which is not in principle the case);
  • must not modify an employee’s working hours or conditions;
  • is not required to provide a separate prayer room;
  • should disregard Ramadan.

HOWEVER USEFUL FROM A WELLNESS/DIVERSITY POLICY POINT OF VIEW

Nevertheless, it can be helpful, from both a welfare policy and a diversity policy perspective, to make this debatable and give it due consideration.

WELLNESS POLICY

For most employees, Ramadan does not affect their performance.

However, loss of concentration or fatigue can represent an increased risk of occupational accidents in the event of heavy work, particularly in safety functions. It may therefore be wise to discuss these risks with the internal service for prevention and protection at work and to seek the opinion of the occupational physician to determine whether temporary arrangements are necessary (e.g.: adjustment of certain tasks, certain teams working together or working the hours).

The Sugar Festival is not a public holiday. Employers who employ many Muslims will therefore have to take into account many vacation requests for that day anyway. They can allow employees to trade an individual vacation day for a sugar fest day off. Employers could also have anticipated this by setting, for example, May 2 as a replacement day for May 1 falling on a Sunday.

DIVERSITY POLICY

From a diversity policy perspective, Ramadan can be an opportunity. Information about Ramadan and sufficient attention to employee fasting can lead to mutual understanding and connection among all employees.