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Trip to Mecca

One of our employees has requested a leave of absence for 2 months for the purposes of a trip to Mecca. The employee works in a school and the trip would take place in term-time: accommodating the request is likely to be difficult for operational reasons.

What response should we give?

EFB Comment:

We assume the employee is a practicing Muslim, and that the request relates to the Hajj. As one the five ‘pillars of faith’, pilgrimage is a duty upon every Muslim adult who is financially and physically able to make the Hajj journey and every Muslim, male or female, strives to make the trip at least once in a lifetime.

Hajj is completed within a fixed period in the last month of the Islamic year, called Dhul-Hijjah (i.e. The Month of Hajj). The pilgrimage rites occur during a 5-day period, between the 8th - 12th days of this lunar month. The event is also marked by the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha, which falls on the 10th day of the lunar month. In 2009 the pilgrimage will fall towards the end of November.

A request for 2 months’ leave would therefore seem to be excessive, and a number of sources suggest that the Hajj should take no longer than 2-3 weeks in total.

We recommend that the request should be considered sympathetically in view of the significance of the pilgrimage. However, if the length of time requested will pose operational problems, we see no reason why it should not be challenged and efforts made to negotiate a shorter absence from work.

Some useful information on Hajj can be found on the Saudi government website and on the Channel4 website.