Advice to the NHS for employees praying whilst at work

Question

What do the scholars of Shariah say about this matter, as a Muslim chaplain at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust, I have been approached by managers across various departments regarding the time required to offer the daily prayers. This will help NHS Muslim staff to fulfil their religious duty without abusing the system. I request your guidance on this matter. It’s worth noting that the NHS Muslim Network offers some guidance for Muslim staff, which I have attached for your reference.

Mohammed Muntazir Hospital Chaplain (Muslim), Department of Spiritual & Pastoral Care

Answer 

First, we commend the NHS’s willingness to accommodate the spiritual needs of their Muslim staff particularly allowing them to pray by providing space. In so doing the NHS as an equal opportunity’s employer meets the legal requirements, a protected right of 20 minutes off for a shift over 6 hours. (UK.gov website) Furthermore, the Equality Act 2010 protects employees from religious discrimination. Employers must consider requests for time off for religious reasons fairly and not disadvantage their employees because of their beliefs.

We agree with the guidance provided by the NHS Muslim network in the attached leaflet, its comprehensive. For the faithful daily prayers are obligatory since it’s a pillar of Islam, a duty that serves as a spiritual gateway to the Creator. A devotion that promotes moral and spiritual growth. Furthermore, it must be performed at set time. The five daily prayers are “compulsory for the believer at fixed times.” (Quran, Al-Nisa 4:103)

We agree with NHS Muslim networks recommendation of 10-15 minutes including time for ablution. We suggest this formula for different times of the year. The Prayer times are determined by the sunrise and sunset so during the year times will vary, and in different parts of the UK, here is rule of thumb.

  1. People who work 9:00 to 5:30 PM need time for three prayers, Zuhr (early afternoon), Asr (late afternoon) and Maghrib (after sunset):

    21st Feb to 25th March, sunset is after 5.30pm.  So, the Zuhr can be performed during the lunch break and Asr any time before 5.30pm.
    26th March to 25th October: Only Zuhr (afternoon) prayer, other prayers don’t fall in work time.
    26th October to 21st February: Zuhr, Asr and Maghrib.

  1. Night shift workers 10pm to 6am will only pray Isha and Fajr during the night shift. Mid-May to mid-August. Rest of the year these prayers can be performed before the start of work.
  1. We also believe that as public servants it will be a generous gesture if Muslim staff were to voluntarily compensate NHS for the time taken for performing the prayers. The compensation can be coming to work early and leaving late and increasing productivity. Another way to appreciate this right would be to volunteer for good causes NHS supports or raise money for NHS supported charities. The Quran exhorts “Isn’t kindness the only compensation for kindness?” (Al-Rahman:60) Messenger said, “the upper hand is better than the lower.” He meant it’s better to be a benefactor than a beneficiary. This charitable gesture will be demonstration of the moral and spiritual impact of the prayer. The prayer has made them generous and kind.

Some optional and courteous gestures from NHS managers

  • Consider how far away is the prayer facility. If someone needs to walk 2 minutes from their workstation to wash, another 2 minutes to the prayer area, etc. these times need to be considered. So, the NHS Muslim Network recommendation of 10 minutes for prayer including washing is right.
  • Some Muslims practice extra devotions, and they will take more time. An employer is responsible for making their employees feel safe and able to express themselves. Having a frank discussion with the employee who lags the others when returning from prayers would be fruitful than jumping to the conclusion, he’s avoiding work.
  • Muslim women will require a room divider to pray separately from men. This honour’ s their right to privacy.
  • Studies show that work productivity increases with short breaks. Human beings are qualitative not quantitative. Making an employee work 5% more hours won’t automatically translate to 5% greater productivity. Instead, we would encourage cultivating a positive workplace culture, and inclusive environment.

While NHS mangers navigate these recommendations when drafting and improving their approach to Human Resources, we encourage them to keep the following in mind:

  1. Consider providing the washing facilities and prayer space nearby.
  2. Consider how congregation could be facilitated even in small groups.
  3. Some workers might engage in devotion before and/or after the prayer, which may take an additional 2-3 minutes.
  4. Total time for fulfilling the obligation not counting travel between spaces can be 5 minutes or can be 15 minutes depending on the aforementioned factors. A slightly longer time may not necessarily be a sign of work avoidance.

By having a conversation with Muslim staff and implementing policies such as those discussed above will demonstrate respect for their faith.

Fatwa written by the BFC team, under the supervision of Dr Musharraf Hussain Al Azhari OBE, DL, Translator of The Majestic Quran.

Share this fatwa:

Support Us

British Fatwa Council is maintained by Karimia Institute. Please support us by donating.

Popular Fatawa