E-flash: "Ramadan: should an employer adjust its hr?"
This year Ramadan falls between 2 April and 1 May and traditionally concludes with the Sugar Feast, a period of reflection and fasting between sunrise and sunset for Muslim employees.
Should employers implement certain adjustments in their hr policies for employees who participate in Ramadan?
No legal obligation
No, there is no legal obligation to do so.
Under Article 20, 5° of the Employment Contracts Act, an employer is indeed obliged to give the employee the necessary time to fulfil 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 faith.
Concretely, this means that an employer:
- cannot prohibit an employee from taking time to pray during his break (except if doing so would endanger the safety of the employee himself and other employees, which in principle is not the case);
- should not adjust an employee's working hours or working conditions;
- is not required to provide a separate prayer room;
- should not take Ramadan into account.
However, useful from a well-being / diversity policy point of view
Nevertheless, it can be useful, both from the point of view of well-being policy and diversity policy, to make this discussible and to pay the necessary attention to it.
For most employees, Ramadan does not affect their performance.
However, loss of concentration or fatigue may represent an increased risk of occupational accidents in case of heavy work, especially in safety functions. Therefore, it may be advisable to discuss these risks with the internal service for prevention and protection at work and to seek the advice of the occupational doctor to determine whether temporary adjustments are necessary (e.g., adjustment of certain tasks, certain teams working together or working hours).
The Sugar Feast is not an official holiday. Employers who employ many Muslims will therefore have to take into account many vacation requests for that day in any case. They may allow employees to exchange an individually vacation day for a day off on the Sugar Feast. Employers could also have anticipated on this by, for example, setting 2 May as a replacement day for 1 May that falls on a Sunday.
From the perspective of diversity policy, Ramadan can provide an opportunity. Information about Ramadan and paying sufficient attention to fasting employees can lead to mutual understanding and connection among all employees.