The law says nothing about Ramadan, says Pascal Besselink, employment law lawyer at DAS. There have also been no lawsuits between employees and employers.
“It is also quite simple. As an employee you can just fast if you want. There is freedom of religion. Employers cannot force you to eat anyway, unless they can demonstrate that it makes your workplace unsafe. But that is difficult. There is a legal right to instructions, but that does not go so far that your boss can determine what you do with your body.”
Employees who sit behind a computer all day will have less difficulty not eating or drinking than employees who do heavy physical work in construction. And a prayer moment is also easier to insert if you do computer work than if you are a bus driver, says Besselink.
The latter profession can cause problems. Muslims are required to pray five times a day according to official teachings. Missed prayers can be made up later, but especially during Ramadan, many Muslims are somewhat stricter in their teachings and prefer to pray at the prescribed times.
“If you really want to pray at the right time, you will have to take time off. You are always entitled to leave. But in practice it is more convenient to have the timetable maker put you on shift work than on another shift. You know in advance when Ramadan falls,” says Besselink.
Talk to your boss or colleagues about it
Employees and employers should behave properly towards each other. That is part of being a good employee and being a good employer, according to the lawyer.
“It is therefore best to talk about it with your colleagues or boss. What are your wishes, what is possible? In the context of the diversity policy, companies are also increasingly making formal agreements about this. In some collective labor agreements you can even choose whether you take time off during Eid or any other Christian holiday.”
Strict diets are also not prohibited
Employers should never interfere with the physical integrity of their employees. This also means that strict diets may not be prohibited for someone who wants to lose weight and you may not prohibit your staff from drinking or smoking.
“Unless the work can no longer be done due to certain behavior. You sometimes see that with obesity. Then people are too heavy to be able to operate certain machines, for example.”
Not sick more often
Employers are sometimes afraid that staff who are probably sick will drop out. There are no formal figures for this, and we do not recognize this phenomenon in practice, says Jurriaan Penders, company doctor and director of medical affairs at HumanCapitalCare.
“We don’t ask people for religion. Also, Ramadan is at a different time every year, so it’s hard to see a pattern.”
Fasting is not bad for you, he says. “It does not damage your health. You will have to get used to it for a few days and you can get a sugar dip, which means that you can concentrate less or become dizzy.”
Working at night
This is not a problem for people with an office job. “It is different if you do dangerous work, for example at heights. With heavy work, you have to be extra alert to the risks during Ramadan. As an employee and employer, discuss this with each other beforehand. See what the bottlenecks are and make adjustments .”
There are several possibilities, says Penders. For example, doing a night shift, if you are fixed and work somewhere where you work in shifts. “Night shifts are also less popular, so you can probably make a good distribution together with your colleagues and schedule makers.”
Adjust working hours
Adjusting the working hours is also an option. The sun now rises around half past seven. Muslims must have eaten before then.
“Then have your staff start at seven or half past seven instead of nine. Then they still have energy. And then they can go home earlier. You can also look at alternative activities. Let someone who does heavy work do other work or plan that heavy work at the start of the shift, when you have just eaten. You can often move tasks around with your colleagues.”
Skipping the break because you are not eating is not legally allowed, but it is done. However, the company doctor does not recommend it. “You don’t just take a break to eat, but also to rest. The risk of accidents increases without rest.”
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