According to XpertHR, ‘What can employers do to support employees who are observing Ramadan?’ is one of the Top 10 Employment Law FAQs.

From 2nd April to 2nd May, Muslims have the opportunity to partake in Ramadan, where one abstains from drinking, eating and smoking from dawn until sunset.

The festival Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, where the daylight fasting ends.

Ramadan is extremely empowering for many Muslims. It is necessary for employers to take all the necessary steps to ensure they create the most inclusive environment possible for their Muslim employees.

HR professionals have both a large responsibility and key role to play when it comes to supporting Muslims during Ramadan in the workplace.

 

What should employers be aware of?

XpertHR offer five points for employers to remember during Ramadan:

  1. Encourage employees to be open about their religious experience
  2. Educate line managers and colleagues about Ramadan
  3. Be flexible with working patterns
  4. Embrace the advantages of hybrid working
  5. Accommodate annual leave requests where possible

 

“Organizations should have a policy for religious observance during working hours to guarantee consistency,” says CEO of Trulog, Ryan Reed-Baum.

“Managers should be instructed on what they can do to help workers. A lack of such policy or failure to support employees whose religious beliefs require them to follow specific behaviours might lead to religious discrimination allegations,” adds Reed-Baum.

Also, in the UK, there are no public holidays for non-Christian days. Eid al-Fitr is a celebration that will want to be celebrated by Muslim employees. It is important for employers to be aware of this when dealing with requests for annual leave.

 

The physical effects of fasting

In order to provide adequate support, it is important to understand the impact of fasting on the mind and body.

CIPD has highlighted that “productivity levels may be affected by the employee’s restricted intake of food, especially during the latter hours of the working days. Employers should be aware of this and not negatively criticise an employee for a lack of productivity caused by fasting; Muslim employees should not be treated less favourably because they are observing Ramadan as there is a discrimination risk. Instead, employers should consider altering shifts or allowing the employee to take regular short breaks to build up their energy levels.”

Employees may also not wish to attend meetings or events which involve food and/or drink. Sensitivity when approaching this is paramount. Seeking an alternative arrangement may be required.

 

Discrimination

It is also important to be aware of the potential workplace harassment Muslim employees may unfortunately face.

“Organisations should work to dispel any notion of this and make sure to remind staff that appropriate action will be taken against anyone found responsible for offensive behaviour and that “workplace banter” will not be accepted as a legitimate excuse for discrimination,” state CIPD.

Spring House Solicitors comments on the increased risk of discrimination faced by Muslims in the workplace during Ramadan, warning that employers “are liable for discrimination and harassment (including on the grounds of religion or belief) by their employees. It is therefore in employers’ best interest to make sure all their employees understand what is involved for those observing this holy period and the potential impact of Ramadan on the workplace.”

Ramadan, a time which allows Muslims to greater devote theirselves to their faith, should be accepted and celebrated in the workplace. HR professionals have the responsibility to ensure an inclusive and positive working environment.

 

Commenting on supporting employees during Ramadan, Vicky Walker, Group Director of People at Westfield Health, says:

“During the month of Ramadan, millions of Muslims across the world fast from sunrise to sunset and focus on their spirituality through prayer, reflection and acts of charity. In the workplace, there are a few simple actions that managers and employees can consider to support colleagues during the month of Ramadan.

“Firstly, sending a reminder to all employees about religious observance can help increase understanding and encourage employees to be considerate. Employers should be open-minded about how different people express faith and tolerate differing productivity levels as energy may be lower at certain times of the day. Religious holidays are also a popular time to take annual leave, so it is important that you have a transparent and fair policy available.

“It’s important for HR practitioners, line managers, and other stakeholders to be aware of their Muslim employees’ personal and religious sensitivities.

“Understanding their experience and accommodating their particular needs shows good management and helps ensure that people are able to perform to the best of their abilities. Implementing policies that accommodate will nurture mutual trust and ultimately lead to higher staff retention, better morale, more effective teams, and greater productivity. Some tips on how to support colleagues may include:

Providing flexibility in working times as employees may want to start work earlier than normal.

  • It may be best to schedule meetings early morning.
  • Avoid bringing food into the meetings if possible and be aware that full training days may be difficult for employees who are fasting.
  • Be accommodating and allow employees to adjust accordingly to fit their schedule as they might want to take shorter or more regular breaks to account for prayers.