The holy month of Ramadan began on 6 June this year and marked the beginning of the most significant month in the Islamic lunar calendar. For all Muslims, Ramadan presents a valuable opportunity for increased spiritual reflection, self-improvement and heightened devotion. Ramadan is expected continued for a period of either 30 days until the sighting of the new crescent moon last week, which signalled the announcement of Eid-ul-Fitr. During this month, it is important to understand the changes in working practices which take place and the requirement for both employers and employees to adapt their respective employment obligations to accommodate the same.
Reduced working hours
The employment of the vast majority of workers in Qatar is governed by the provisions of Law No.14 of 2004 ("Labour Law"). The Labour Law ordinarily provides for a working week of 48 hours per week over a six day week with eight working hours allotted to each day. In Ramadan, working hours are reduced by two hours each day with 36 hours being the most that can be worked in any given week. It is important to note that the Labour Law does not draw a distinction between fasting and non-fasting employees, the reduced working hours apply to all employees.
Employees are still able to work two hours per day overtime as necessary and the usual overtime rates apply during Ramadan. Employees who would not normally get paid overtime because they are in a position of responsibility or otherwise will not be paid overtime during Ramadan. Employers and employees which operate and work respectively a five day week will be required to reduce their working hours accordingly.
Compliance with Qatar laws and regulations during Ramadan in relation to reduced working hours is promoted and observed in the same way as it is for fasting. The Labour Department of the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs is the relevant government agency with ultimate regulation and enforcement responsibility; and, is the place for employers to refer their questions in relation to the correct Ramadan working policies and procedures in order to confirm that such policies and procedures are compliant. In particular, the hours for employees working shifts should be discussed and agreed in advance where possible.
Qatar Financial Centre
The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Employment Regulations No.10 of 2006 ("QFC Employment Regulations") which governs the employment of all individuals employed by the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA), the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority (QFCRA) and the entities licensed and regulated by those authorities provide for reduced working hours for fasting employees only. All other employees are required to work normal hours, whatever those hours are and have been agreed to be between the employer and the employee. Where employees fast and work normal hours, they will be permitted the usual rest breaks.
Ramadan working hours for government or public sector employees are set by the Minister or his authorised representative in the respective Qatar ministries, quasi-government entities and other government agencies. The working hours of these organisations are usually announced in advance of Ramadan.
Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and is celebrated as an official public holiday in Qatar. The Labour Law provides for a three day public holiday for Eid Ul-Fitr; however, the start date and duration of Eid holidays will often differ depending on whether the employee is employed in accordance with the provisions of the Labour Law, the QFC Employment Regulations or the Human Resources Law which governs the employment of public sector employees. There are other laws which govern the start date and duration of Eid holidays which have not been considered for the purposes of this article.
The Human Resources Law provides that public holidays amongst other things will be determined by a Council of Ministers' resolution. Generally, employees whose employment is subject to the Human Resources Law enjoy longer holidays than other employees in Qatar. Eid holidays in Qatar are officially announced on or shortly before they are due to begin. This year public sector holidays for Eid Al-Fitr are expected to start on or around 6 July 2016.
Finally, it is also important to note that if the Eid holidays fall on a Friday, Saturday or indeed any other public holiday, it is likely that a day either before or after will be allocated as a holiday day to make up for the loss. In addition, if the circumstances of the work require the employee to work during Eid, the employee is required to be compensated for the rest day in accordance with the Labour Law.
Note: Qatari Laws (save for those issued by the Qatar Financial Centre to regulate its own internal business) are issued in Arabic and there are no official translations. For the purposes of drafting this advice, we have used our own translations and interpreted the same in the context of Qatari laws, regulations and current market practice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.