Employees should not be asked to put more than six hours during Ramadan regardless of their religion, and private sector institutions requesting their non-Muslim employees to work normal hours are violating the law of the land, the Ministry of Labour warned.
A number of private sector employees have complained that their companies force them to work regular hours during Ramadan, despite the Ministry of Labour decision cutting down daily working hours to six during Ramadan.
The decision states that the working hours of companies in the private sector will be reduced to a maximum of six hours instead of the regular eight hours during the month of Ramadan, without affecting the salaries of employees.
Some people have experienced some confusion over the terms of the rule.
A multi-national company asked its employees to work the extra hours from home, according to Yasmin, an employee.
"They told employees that the law only applies to the hours spent inside the office, whereas if people go home they can work the extra hours there without any overtime payment," she said.
Another employee, Jane, said her husband's company told employees that the rules of reduced working hours in Ramadan only apply to Muslims, since people who are not fasting do not need to have their working hours reduced.
But Dr Gassan Al Mushrif, of Al Mushrif Advocates, said it is forbidden to make any employee work for more than six hours, according to the ministerial decision.
"Regardless of the employee's faith and whether or not they are fasting, the law stipulates that the employee's working hours shall not exceed six in Ramadan, which applies to all workers in the private sector without discrimination," he said.
"If a company insists that their employees work their regular hours during Ramadan, these employees should be compensated by overtime payment for each additional hour above the six hours stipulated by the law," he said.
If the employee fails to reach a solution regarding payment of overtime compensation, he or she has the right to file a complaint at the Ministry of Labour, and the company will be held responsible.
"This is a serious violation against the labour law, and companies that break this law will be slapped with administrative punishments, just like companies who break the mid-day work ban during the summer months," Mohammad Ebrahim Al Shaiba of Al Shaiba Advocates and Legal Consultants said.
Companies cannot ask their employees to work extra hours from home, because any work done at home should count towards the employee's total hours and some people have jobs working from home.
Al Shaiba said the reduction of working hours in Ramadan by two hours is stipulated by article 65 of the Federal Law No 8 of 1980.