For many Malaysian office workers, the working arrangement for Muslims during the fasting month of Ramadhan - coming in earlier, working through lunchtime, and/or leaving the office earlier - is a pretty accepted norm. Similarly, many of us dropping by government offices will also need to keep an eye on the change in office hours over this month.
Although this is an accepted norm, we might wonder if this is actually rooted in law.
The answer for this is really straightforward because....
There is no law controlling office work hours during Ramadan
Many of the laws pertaining to the welfare of employees in the office is housed in the Employment Act 1955 (only applicable in Peninsula Malaysia), which mandates your well-being in the workplace by stipulating the number of hours you can work in a day to the minimum required benefits you will receive as an employee of the company. Similarly, it also outlines penalties if these requirements aren't met.
However, the Employment Act (or any applicable employment laws) does not make specific mention of work hours or policies for Ramadan. In essence, this means that companies are actually free to outline any changes over the fasting month, or none at all.
It's the same whether in the Government or Private Sector
One thing to note is that an employer still has the right to ensure that each employee fulfills their work hours and/or obligations as per the employment contract during Ramadhan. However, many will offer some leeway or flexibility during this period as discussed below.
For the Private Sector, flexible work hours during Ramadhan is can either be a matter of a company policy, whether through a written memo or common understanding; or on an ad-hoc basis where each employee may inform their boss or HR department on how they can observe their religious obligations while still remaining productive.
For most employees in the Government Sector, these hours are mandated by the Public Service Department in the form of a memo circulated to all public service employees - and they do get revised from time to time!
In the latest revision from 2016, the Public Service Department reduced the "lunch break" from one hour to 30 minutes while allowing employees to leave 30 minutes earlier - meaning that they still spend the same amount of time at work. They also use a system of staggered work hours, or Waktu Kerja Berperingkat where employees can choose or be assigned to a set time to arrive at and leave work throughout the Ramadhan period.
Table for staggered work hours. Screencapped from the PSD's memo. Click image for link.
If you're unsure, always check!
While most Malaysian companies are understanding of their Muslim employees in regards to the fasting month, it can sometimes lead to unnecessary issues when policies aren't expressly indicated.
If you're new to the company, policies regarding work hours and practices during Ramadhan may not always be set in writing. In this sense, it may be best to check with other Muslim employees, your boss, or the HR Department. Moreso for the Private Sector, some Muslims may pray more often during this period, so it would be a good idea to inform your boss or HR if you'll be doing this in order to prevent any misunderstandings.
Lastly, we wish all our Muslim readers a joyous and blessed Ramadhan, and Selamat Hari Raya in advance :)