Every year, Muslims all over the world celebrate Ramadan for the duration of one month. During this time, Muslims are generally prohibited from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset.
As a general rule, all employers in France must respect the opinions and religious beliefs of their employees. Employers may only restrict an employee’s freedom if justified by the nature of the task to be performed and proportionate to the pursued objective (Article L 1121-1 of the French Labour Code). In addition, distinguishing between employees on the basis of their religious beliefs is discrimination and prohibited by law (Article L 1132-1 of the French Labour Code).
According to French law, employees may not be discriminated against based on their religious beliefs. Employers violating such principle are criminally liable and incur up to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of €45,000 (Articles 225-1 and 225-2 of the French Criminal Code).
The right to freedom of religion in the workplace is also protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
On the other hand however, employees in France cannot claim special treatment on the basis of their own religion, unless there is a contractual agreement or custom to that effect.
As employees cannot, in principle, claim special treatment due to their religious beliefs, they cannot demand an adjustment of their working hours during Ramadan. In France, an employer is therefore not required to adjust the working hours of employees during Ramadan, as it is the employer who organises working hours. An employee must therefore comply fully with his or her working hours and cannot raise his or her religion to obtain a change in working hours.
The same rule applies to the employee’s holiday entitlement. An employee does not have to indicate the reasons for his or her holiday request. If an employee does indicates a religious ground to a holiday request, the employer is not obliged to grant leave. However, the employer’s refusal must be based on objective reasons, i.e. the employer must make his or her decision based on organisational reasons and treat the leave request as any other holiday request.
Safety in the workplace
Employers have a duty to their employees to ensure safety in the workplace in terms of health and hygiene. If Ramadan has an impact on the employee’s health, especially regarding fatigue, the employer is advised to take this into account in the interest of both parties. The specific situation must be considered in each individual case (e.g. the work of an employee on a construction site is certainly more meticulous than that of an administrative official in an air-conditioned office building). The employer can, under such circumstances, temporarily change the employee’s work load, working hours or the workplace. This should be discussed in advance with the company doctor.
Under certain circumstances, an employee can be dismissed for an unauthorised absence during Ramadan. However, this is tried in court on a case-by-case basis.
An employee can be dismissed at any time if he or she insults a colleague who practices Ramadan (CA Metz 15-1-2021 n° 19/00094, CA Colmar 29-9-2020 n° 19/04547).
This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice addressed to particular circumstances. You should not take or refrain from taking any legal action based upon the information contained herein without first seeking professional, individualized counsel based upon your own circumstances. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.
Information by ALARIS AVOCATS, English speaking lawyers in France (Paris) specialized in French labor law, especially any kinds of Social Plans, dismissal procedures and labor contract clauses.