How can you support employees who are observing Ramadan?
Ramadan is a significant month in Islam, where Muslims across the globe fast from sunrise to sunset for 29 or 30 days. At the end of Ramadan, comes the first of the two Holy Celebrations for Muslims: Eid al-Fitr. In this article, we look at workplace issues which may arise for both Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr.
Fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. The month of Ramadan is a period of introspection, communal prayer in the mosque, and reading of the Qur’an. Muslims believe that God forgives the past sins of those who observe the holy month with fasting, prayer, and faithful intention. During this month, fasting is more than just abstinence from food and drink. It is rather a system of worship and for Muslims to feel a closer and deeper connection with God, by spending that month feeding the soul as opposed to the stomach.
What are the 2023 Ramadan fasting times?
In the UK, Ramadan of 2023 started on the evening of 22 March, and is expected to last until 21 April. During this period, Muslims will be fasting for around 15-16 hours each day. That means no food and no water and that becomes more difficult as the weather becomes warmer. After they have broken their fast at sunset, Muslims customarily spend a portion of the night in prayer, in a mosque or at home, before getting some sleep before they must rise again for the short meal before sunrise.
Fasting employees are likely to suffer from fatigue
That means those fasting in your workplace are likely to suffer from fatigue as the working day progresses. The final 10 nights of Ramadan are the most important nights in Islam. It is during those 10 nights that Muslims prolong the time they spend in prayer. Naturally, that means they are even more sleep-deprived towards the end of Ramadan.
How to support Muslim employees who are observing Ramadan
Understanding the needs of your workforce by speaking to your staff is often the best approach. On the other hand, being sensitive to practices of your workforce is equally important. Here are some ways you can help your Muslim employees during Ramadan:
- Be flexible with working hours (irrespective of whether the employee has the right to make a flexible working request).
- Allow remote working where possible.
- Allow annual leave, especially towards the last 10 nights and Eid al-Fitr.
- Avoid meetings, seminars, training and events that start early or finish late.
- Allow breaks for the daily prayers (or substitute for the usual lunch breaks).
- Provide, where possible, a private room where the employees can pray during the day.
- Ask managers and colleagues to be aware that it is Ramadan and encouraging them to be supportive of their fasting colleagues.
How to manage annual leave requests for Eid al-Fitr
At the end of Ramadan comes Eid al-Fitr and we recommend allowing annual leave during this time, in line with your usual procedures. Where holiday requests are because of Ramadan/Eid al-Fitr, do not dismiss requests for annual leave because it is Easter or because it is a busy period. Employers can be liable for discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. To avoid the risk of discrimination, full consideration should be given to the viability of accommodating the request.