Abu Dhabi/Dubai: Scores of non-Muslims have sought help from authorities concerned protesting against what they say is discrimination in terms of reduced work hours during Ramadan.
Many Gulf News readers also voiced complaints that they are made to work longer hours than their Muslim colleagues during Ramadan despite a Ministry of Labour announcement to the contrary. The ministry recently announced that all private and public sector staff are required to work a maximum of six to seven hours daily. Companies are required to reduce regular working hours by at least two hours during Ramadan.
The readers who took up the issue requested that their names not be disclosed as they feared it could have repercussions on their jobs.
One reader sent a copy of a letter from his company's human resource department that called on all non-Muslim senior staff and managers to work the full day from 9am till 5pm — a total of nine hours.
"This is racism," another reader who works for 12 hours every day in another company said. He said his firm, to add insult to injury, is also refusing to pay overtime this year for extra hours put in by employees. A senior ministry official told Gulf News that companies that do not reduce working hours for all their employees by two hours will face stiff penalties.
He said the penalties could include a fine of up to Dh10,000 and a suspension of the firm's eligibility for labour permits for a specified period.
The two-hour reduction in work timings applies to all workers both in the public and the private sector, regardless of their religious belief. The regulation allows those who work for eight hours a day throughout the year to avail of a six-hour work day in Ramadan, while those who work for nine hours should benefit from a seven-hour work day during the Holy Month.
One reader from Abu Dhabi said his company had not only asked staff to work for eight hours but also on Saturdays, which is the weekend off day. He asked where he could make a complaint. The ministry is currently inspecting firms to check compliance both with the Ramadan timings, as well as with the midday break rule that prohibits outdoor work between 12:30 pm and 3 pm till September 15.
The ministry official, however, noted that it was impossible to check on all the 180,000 labour establishments across the UAE. "We are at present focusing on midday break compliance, which is essential to ensure the basic health and rights of workers," he said. According to the official, employers can only legally require employees to put in more than the six or seven hours of work with their consent. "In this case, the extra hours of work cannot exceed four hours on a daily basis, and the worker must be paid 150 per cent of his normal hourly rate of pay for each extra hour worked."
But sales staff at the Computer Plaza in Bur Dubai complain that shop owners do not bother about the rules. "Everyone is forced to work longer hours," said one salesman. "No one can complain because no one wants to lose their jobs," he said.
- 6 to 7 hours maximum work time for all Muslims and non-Muslims.
- 150 per cent of normal hourly rate to be paid if working overtime.
- 12.30pm-3pm midday summer break for outdoor workers.
- Hotline: Call 800 665 to lodge complaint with Ministry of Labour