Ramadan and Work

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In a recent interview with Fatima Achouri, author of “The Muslim Employee in France,” Achouri examines how observant French Muslims celebrate Ramadan while continuing to work. Achouri discusses Ramadan’s importance as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and as an obligation for all believers who are physically capable of observing the holiday. Ramadan “highlights the concept of patience and endurance against life’s struggles,” says Achouri. She describes it as an “inner experience,” which explains why many Muslims prefer to not speak about their fasting throughout the month.

When discussing Ramadan’s position in the workplace, Achouri says that “the right to work dictates that it is completely possible to practice one’s religion, it is a fundamental right…for that matter there is a limitation to this freedom that can be put into effect.” For example, during Ramadan a worker cannot “rely on fasting to justify an error [at work].” Furthermore, if the employee feels that his own health and the safety of others is in danger he is allowed to break the fast and make up the days at a later time.

This year Ramadan begins at the end of June and spans much of July– a time when many Frenchmen are on vacation. When asked if the timing would cause observers to use their vacation time during Ramadan, Achouri answered that most prefer to work. Many employees will, however, take the day off for Eid to celebrate the end of Ramadan. While workers may ask for time off it is not guaranteed–especially in workplaces with a large number of Muslim employees.

Businesses are responsible for their workers’ wellbeing and their health and security. This year’s fasting period is particularly long and can last for eighteen hours. The situations for Muslim employees in France can vary depending on the type of establishment. Some businesses are more likely than others to accommodate those who fast. They may allow observant employees to take breaks during the day, or give them tasks that require less physical exertion. Such policies are often in the organization’s own interest, as they promote workers’ health and efficiency and encourage “harmony” in the workplace. Achouri encourages Muslim employees, especially those whose jobs entail physical labor, to speak with their managers in order to find solutions that work for everyone.

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