Tips to Support Employees Who Observe Ramadan
March 14, 2023
Source: Personnel Today
In 2023, Ramadan begins on Wednesday, March 22nd and ends on Friday, April 21st. There is a festival (Eid al-Fitr) to mark the end of Ramadan when Muslims break their daylight fasting.
The beginning of Ramadan is an ideal time to remind employers of how to support Muslim staff who are observing the Islamic holy month. Here are five points for employers to remember during Ramadan.
Many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. They may also wish to spend time in prayer, engage in charitable activities, and spend time with family and friends to celebrate.
During this time, many Muslims are faced with the challenge of balancing their religious commitments with work. To be an inclusive employer, it is important that HR, line managers and colleagues accommodate employees who are observing Ramadan.
1. Encourage employees to be open about their religious observance
Employees who are fasting will usually attend work as normal but can be encouraged to tell their employer that they are fasting. This should be done in a sensitive manner – managers and colleagues should not pry as some staff will be uncomfortable sharing the details of their religious beliefs.
However, employers should not assume that all employees want to be treated differently because they are fasting. Indeed, not all individuals observing Ramadan will actually be fasting – for example, there are exceptions for people with health conditions, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
To strike a balance, employers could send a staff-wide message about the fasting period, with an invitation to employees to make their needs during Ramadan known.
2. Educate your team about Ramadan
Employers can raise awareness of key religious events, including Ramadan, by having a calendar of the key religious days and festivals on their shared calendar.
For example, publicizing the dates of Ramadan and explaining about fasting can enable employees to be sensitive to the needs of colleagues who may be observing the fast. This can also help managers to anticipate requests for annual leave.
There are simple steps that everyone can take to support individuals during Ramadan observance, including:
- avoiding placing additional burdens on them while they are fasting, for example not asking them to do overtime;
- being considerate by not offering food or drink to them;
- avoiding having work events that involve food, such as working lunches and team meetings where biscuits or food spreads are placed in front of them; and
- avoiding scheduling important meetings, such as performance appraisals, late in the day when their energy levels may be low.
3. Be flexible with working patterns
One of the most helpful things that an employer can do for employees observing Ramadan is to allow them to adjust their working patterns.
Employers should remember that an employee may be getting up earlier than usual to have a meal before sunrise and staying up late for evening prayers. These factors, and the fact that the employee is not eating during daylight hours, can lead to fatigue and drops in concentration.
4. Embrace the advantages of hybrid working
The pandemic has meant that many employers have introduced hybrid working for most or all of their staff. Employers that have moved to the hybrid working model can use this way of working to support employees who are observing Ramadan.
For example, the employer could temporarily amend the ratio of time spent attending the workplace compared with time working remotely, allowing fasting employees to spend more time working at home during Ramadan.
Embracing hybrid working during Ramadan as a way to reduce commuting, which can be draining for an employee who is fasting, is a good way for employers to show their support.
5. Accommodate annual leave requests where possible
Employers should bear in mind that they may see an increase in holiday requests from Muslims during Ramadan, particularly during the festival to mark the end of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr).
The Easter break, combined with Ramadan, mean that employers may see an increase in the number of employees requesting time off for both religious and non-religious reasons in March and April.
While there is no automatic right to time off for religious reasons, managers should be sensitive to the needs of employees who are observing religious events, including Ramadan.