Respecting the month of Ramadan in the Workplace

The arrival of Ramadan this week brings a month of worship, devotion and
community gathering for many Muslims in the UK – and a responsibility on employers
to support their employees during a month-long holy period.

Ramadan begins on Wednesday 22 March and finishes on Friday 21 April, with the
Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of Ramadan, when Muslims break their daylight
fasting.

The beginning of Ramadan is an ideal time to remember the importance of
supporting Muslim colleagues who are observing the Islamic holy month – especially
as many Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan; and also wish
to spend time in prayer, engage in charitable activities; and celebrate with family and
friends.

During this time, many Muslims are faced with the challenge of balancing their
religious commitments with work – and to be an inclusive employer, it’s important that
organisations and their management teams accommodate employees who are
observing Ramadan.

Five Top-Tips to ‘Getting it Right’ for Ramadan

Muslims, as a religious group, are protected under the Equality Act 2010, so
employers need to ensure they don’t discriminate against any employees observing
Ramadan – and that can mean making a ‘reasonable adjustment’ to ensure the
needs of fasting employees are considered in the workplace, for example.

Two-way communication is the best way to find those ‘reasonable adjustments’ –
and that means asking any Muslim employees (or their representatives) what can be
done to support them, to ensure productivity doesn’t drop and that religious
obligations are respected.

Small changes and collaborative adjustments can ensure that Muslim employees
are able to truly celebrate their faith without it impacting their work – with best
practice advice including:

1. Being flexible with working patterns

Adjusting working patterns is probably one of the most helpful things any employer
can do for employees observing Ramadan.
Employers need to remember that an employee may be getting up earlier than usual
to have a meal before sunrise, fasting during daylight hours – and staying up late for
evening prayers.

This can lead to fatigue and drops in concentration, so employers should consider (if
possible) pitting in place temporary arrangements during Ramadan to allow
employees to

● start work earlier than usual so that they can leave the workplace earlier; and
● be flexible with their lunch break, for example by shortening it or taking it
earlier or later in the day.

It’s important to ensure that such temporary arrangements are not seen by others as
allowing the employee to reduce their working hours – and make sure that
arrangements are not in breach of working time legislation.

2. Encouraging 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 – line managers and colleagues should not pry, as some people will
be uncomfortable sharing the details of their religious beliefs.

Also, employers shouldn’t 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.

Employers can strike a balance by putting a message on their intranet about the
fasting period, with an invitation to employees to register their needs during
Ramadan.

3. Educating line managers and colleagues about Ramadan

Employers can raise awareness of key religious events, including Ramadan, by
having a calendar of the main religious days and festivals on their intranet.
There are simple steps that everyone can take to support individuals during
Ramadan observance, including:

● Avoiding placing additional burdens (such as overtime) on people while they
are fasting

● 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 people

● Avoiding scheduling important meetings, such as performance appraisals, late
in the day when energy levels may be low.

4. Accommodating annual leave requests where possible

Employers may see an increase in holiday requests from Muslim employees
during Ramadan, particularly during the Eid festival that marks the end of
Ramadan.

While there is no automatic right to time off for religious reasons, line
managers should be sensitive to the needs of employees who are observing
religious events, including Ramadan – reducing the risk of discrimination by
taking a consistent approach to requests for time off, and refusing requests
only where they have a legitimate reason (always explaining the reason for
that refusal in a full and considerate way.)

5. Embracing the advantages of hybrid working

The pandemic saw many employers introduce hybrid working, where possible – and
the hybrid model can be used to support employees who are observing Ramadan.
For example, an employer could temporarily change the ratio of time spent attending
the workplace, compared with time working remotely – enabling employees who are
fasting to spend more time at home during Ramadan.

Line managers who are organising meetings on a particular day should consider
whether it’s possible for the employee to work from home and join the meeting
remotely.

We hope these ‘top tips’ help you and your team respect and celebrate Ramadan
appropriately – and if you’re looking for more in-depth advice on navigating Ramadan
(and all religious events), the Equality and Human Rights Commission offers
further free resources and professional advice.

To keep abreast of the latest best practices in attracting and developing talent
in South East Wales, go to www.venturewales.org

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