The holy month of Ramadan commences next week. Ramadan is the Islamic month which is observed by Muslims across the world. It is a sacred month of spiritual reflection, charity and appreciation. Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset, which means not eating and drinking for 16-18 hours. How can employers support their staff who are observing Ramadan, Suzanna Ghazal, Solicitor, explains.
Employers will need to be mindful that during the month of Ramadan sleep shift patterns change due to changes in mealtimes. Many Muslims will complete optional night-time prayers, and wake up before sunrise to eat a final meal and complete the morning prayer.
It is worth noting that some Muslims may be exempt from fasting (for example if they are unwell, elderly, pregnant or on medication) but will still get involved in the other religious practices during the holy month.
It is recommended that employers have open conversations with employees observing Ramadan throughout the month to discuss how best to support them. Employers who are proactive in supporting employees through Ramadan are employers who are forward-thinking. Gone are the days where it is simply enough for businesses to say they are an inclusive workforce. By creating a work culture where employees feel supported, valued and included, employers will in turn attract a diverse workforce whilst ensuring that their staff feel supported and engaged.
Steps employers could consider to support their employees:
Accommodate flexible working requests. For those working from home, this may be easier to accommodate as there tends to be more room for flexibility. Employers should consider agreeing to more suitable/convenient shifts, an earlier (or later) start time or a shorter lunch break.
Annual leave requests. Annual leave requests tend to increase from those who are observing the holy month, particularly at the end of the month which is marked by the religious festival, Eid. Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, making it difficult to plan in advance, and so requests may need to be made on short notice. Employers should ensure that they are considerate and follow their annual leave policies.
Awareness. Employers should look to educate employees on Ramadan and encourage employees to support those who are fasting. Taking a sensitive approach is important and employers and colleagues should refrain from making comments about how difficult it must be. Awareness and education will in turn limit the risk of discrimination in the workplace.
Recognise that employees observing the religious festival will be more tired than usual. If possible, scheduling meetings in the morning where energy will be at its highest is encouraged.
Rest breaks. Employees who are fasting may need to take more frequent breaks to rest and pray. Prayer is particularly important to those observing Ramadan and employees should be able to practice their daily prayers.
Access to praying facilities. Employers are encouraged to put in place praying facilities. It is important to remember that prayer is also obligatory outside of Ramadan. Although it may seem like a small gesture, putting in place a safe space for employees to carry out their prayers will make them feel valued and included.
If you would like advice on practical steps you can take to make your workforce more inclusive, or if we can help you prepare a workplace Ramadan policy, please do not hesitate to contact Suzanna Ghazal at [email protected].
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.