Firms risk fines by flouting Ramadan rules

Ministry warns private sector employees should work six-hour days, ‘regardless of race or religion’
Firms risk fines by flouting Ramadan rules
Retail staff polled by Arabian Business said they were working full days without additional pay
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Mon 08 Aug 2011 07:35 AM

Private sector firms are risking large fines this Ramadan by forcing staff to work full eight-hour days without overtime, in breach of Ministry of Labour laws.

In a survey by Arabian Business, staff at retail outlets including Costa Coffee, Borders, Burger King and The Toy Store reported working longer than the six hours allotted by the Ministry, for the same salary.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour said it was illegal for staff in the private sector to work beyond six hours during Ramadan without receiving overtime pay.

“This applies to the whole of the private sector,” the spokesperson said. “There is no relation to religion or nationality. People should only work six hours. Anyone who works more than six hours should be paid overtime.”

It is irrelevant whether staff are fasting or not, he said.

“If workers are being forced to work without being paid overtime they can contact our call centre free on 800 665 to complain.”

Companies found flouting the labour law risk an AED10,000 fine for each worker.

At bookstore Borders, a staff member said he worked nine hours a day without overtime pay, while his Muslim colleagues were allowed to leave after six hours.

“If you’re not a Muslim, you work normal time,” he said.

Al Maya Group, the franchise holder for Borders, said retail staff worked seven-hour shifts, plus a maximum of two hours overtime that was paid at the end of the month.

Staff members at The Toy Store, operated in the UAE by holding company Gulf Greetings, said they worked seven or eight-hour days without extra pay.

One employee said he had broached the subject of reduced hours with his supervisor but had been told; “If you don’t like it, you must leave.”

Gulf Greetings said in a statement staff were allowed to work six-hour days, but those working extra hours were paid overtime or received time off in lieu.

Staff at Costa Coffee outlets, in Burger King and Beirut restaurants all said they were working more than the required six hours a day, without further compensation.

The coffee chain denied the claims, but said non-fasting staff would be working additional hours and would receive overtime pay or time off in compensation.

Staff at retail outlets McDonalds, H&M and Carrefour each reported their working hours had been cut or they had received compensation for working overtime.

The Ministry of Labour will be carrying out spot checks on workplaces during the holy month of Ramadan, and may fine employers found in breach of labour laws.

Between 15 June and 15 July, the ministry carried out 10,099 guidance visits and 23,595 inspections to companies, the spokesperson said.

Ramadan began this year on August 1, with all Muslim adults expected to observe a fasting period during daylight hours.

Non-Muslims are also banned from eating or drinking in public between sunrise and sunset.

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