Office Timings In Ramazan
Three things that concern Pakistanis the most before the beginning of the holy month of Ramazan are; sugar prices, electricity shortage given the severity of hot weather and office timings. The former two would be dealt with at another time but for the purposes of this article, we are concerned with the office timings. It should not surprise many that there is no particular law that regulates office hours during Ramazan, though it remains preferable to ensure prevention of exploitation of employees, particularly the ones working in private institutions.
Since we are prone to cherish and take examples from our ‘brethren’ in the Middle East, including myself who has recently restored the sanctity of ‘z’ which remained stumped by ‘d’ for several years now, it would be pertinent to note how the office hours are regulated there. Dubai International Financial Center’s (DIFC) employment law provides in Part 4, Section 3; ‘During the Holy month of Ramadan, a Muslim employee who observes the fast shall not be required to work in excess of six (6) hours each day. There shall be no reduction in compensation as a result’. It can be noted that the law makes a specific mention of ‘fasting Muslims’. Hence, if you are not fasting and the employer finds out, he can ask you to work for normal working hours. This law, however, is confined to areas that fall under DIFC’s jurisdiction. However,under the UAE’s labor law, no such distinction is made between Muslims and Non-Muslims and the reduction in office hours applies across the board. One of the benefits for having a proper law in place, as mentioned above, is that it allows the authorities to keep an effective check across the board. Authorities in UAE keep a scrutiny of the working hours and if anyone is found to have violated the law, they can be penalized.
In Pakistan, on the other hand, there is no law that supports the reduction of office hours during Ramazan which is incomprehensible considering that the much criticized Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance, 1981 continues to hold force. In the absence of legislation, government issues notification to regulate the office hours at provincial and federal institutions. In the private sector, businesses do it of their own accord. Though, the legislation which seeks to protect the rights of labor does prescribe a specific number of hours, e.g. The Punjab Shops and Establishment Ordinance, 1969 provides in section 8; Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Ordinance, no adult employee shall be required or permitted to work in any establishment in excess of nine hours a day and forty-eight hours a week, and no young person in excess of seven hours a day and forty-two hours a week, it is only sane to consider that the private business will reduce it below the average hours allowed otherwise but if the entity fails to do so, no penalty can ensue as a result. In this situation, it can only be presumed that, in Pakistan,the government is more concerned about preventing people from eating in front of those who are fasting than to protect the latter from over work which is more likely to affect their health than the radiation, if any, which may omit from a sandwich or any other edible.
It may be noted that the office hours for the year 2015 had been reduced to 6 hours during weekdays except Friday when the timing had been reduced further by an hour. This had been done through notifications issued by center, provinces and the State Bank of Pakistan. It is, however, advisable to the legislature to once more look towards the ‘brethren’ in UAE for something other than ‘dirhams’ and adopt a law that can be applied upon everyone to maintain the health and integrity of the working class of the country as obligated by the Constitution of Pakistan, notably under Articles 9 and 14 wherein the courts have read the right to a quality and healthy life as a fundamental right.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.