It is that time of the year again – a time of fasting, reflection, prayer and community for Muslims all around the world.
In the Middle East, fasting Muslim employees have the added benefit of being able to observe the Holy Month of Ramadan in an environment where their needs are met not just from a social perspective, but also from a legal one by way of reduced working hours.
In the United Arab Emirates, there are three jurisdictions’ laws to take into consideration when assessing how Ramadan would affect your employees’, fasting and non-fasting working environment and we will discuss these here:
Historically, all employees, whether they were fasting or not fasting, Muslim or Non-Muslim, were entitled to reduced working hours during Ramadan (colloquially referred to as “Ramadan Hours”).
There was a bit of uncertainty in the market about how Ramadan Hours would work this year considering the New Labour Law effectively left the position unclear by stating that the working hours during Ramadan will be determined by the Executive Regulations. Speculation was rife and in particular it was expected that Ramadan Hours will only be available to fasting Muslim employees (similar to the DIFC and ADGM).
However, the Executive Regulations, once it was promulgated, provides that regular working hours shall be reduced by two hours per day and does not differentiate between fasting and non-fasting employees.
Therefore, employers outside of the DIFC and ADGM are obliged to comply with the law by giving their employees two hours less per day.
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC):
The DIFC Employment Law provides that Muslim employees shall not work in excess of 6 hours per day. There can be no reduction of salary for these reduced hours.Non-Muslim employees will work normal hours.
Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM):
The ADGM Employment Regulations states that Muslim employees who observe the fast will will have their working hours reduced by two hours per day (with no reduction in compensation).
Therefore, similar to the DIFC, non-Muslim and non-fasting employees will be required to work normal hours.
It is an important time of year and it helps if employers take heed and encourage non-Muslim employees to be respectful and understanding during this month. This may include:
- Encouraging employees to be considerate of fasting employees, including closing their office doors if they are eating or drinking;
- Encouraging employees not to bring very fragrant food to work or to only heat and eat such food in the kitchen or pantry area;
- Trying to designate an area for non-fasting employees to eat their food without disturbing fasting employees;
- Considering arranging activities for non-Muslim employees to raise awareness about the significance and history of the holy month – for example, an office Iftar is a great opportunity to learn about and experience the traditions, culture and special food and desserts; and
- Encouraging non-Muslim employees to support their fasting colleagues during this special time and try to be part of the messages of hope and generosity that are so unique to this time of year.
 Federal Law Nr. 33 of 2021, which came into effect on 2 February 2022
 Cabinet Resolution 1 of 2022
 DIFC Employment Law No. 2 of 2019 as amended by DIFC Law No. 4 of 2021
 ADGM Employment Regulations of 2019