Do you have employees who are observing Ramadan? Here is a guide on how you can support them.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The exact dates of Ramadan change every year but this year it is due to take place between 22nd March to 21st April. During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims will fast each day between sunrise and sunset, and perform additional prayers and other religious duties. During this time, employers should consider taking steps to support them and be aware of the potential effects of not eating or drinking during the day, combined with a change to sleeping patterns.

Now it is important to note that not all Muslim employees will be observing Ramadan in the same way, or that those who are fasting will want the employer to make special arrangements for them. Encourage your employees to have an open discussion with you about any impact that they think fasting could have on their work, and any measures that could be personally helpful and supportive to them.

As we have all seen, in the past few years, there has been a significant increase with the amount of employees who work remotely. Where employees are working at home whilst observing Ramadan, there may be greater scope for flexibility in terms of their working hours but be mindful of potential issues relating to the employees’ wellbeing, such as working for long periods without interruption. You should encourage all employees working at home to take regular breaks, but this may be particularly beneficial for employees who are fasting.

Depending on the nature of work carried out by each employee, steps that you can consider to best support your employees who are observing Ramadan include:

  • sending out a communication to all your people explaining how you’ll support anyone observing Ramadan; use this messaging as an opportunity to also let colleagues know the religious festival Is happening, so they can also be considerate of observing colleagues and any needs they may have during this time;
  • accommodating requests for annual leave;
  • making colleagues aware that it is Ramadan and encouraging them to be supportive of their fasting colleagues, in particular by not offering them food or drink (where employees are still in the workplace);
  • arranging shifts to accommodate employees’ preferences where possible, for example so that an employee can finish work in time to break the fast at sunset;
  • enabling employees to arrange their working days to allow for lower energy and concentration levels in the afternoon, for example by scheduling important meetings or work physically demanding tasks in the morning, and tasks that are less physically or mentally demanding later in the day; and
  • allowing flexible working, for example an earlier start time, a short lunch break or extra breaks for prayer.

We understand that not all employers will be able to accommodate requests for flexibility in working hours or for annual leave for many reasons, and although you are not obliged to agree requests from employees observing Ramadan (provided you can objectively justify any refusal), we would suggest an open discussion with your team members to explain the reasons for any refusal and to recognise any suitable alternative support that you can provide.

Want some expert help?

Share the way you work with employees from day one, with clear contracts, policies and an employee handbook explaining the framework and expectations within your business. Take a look at our People Documentation Packages and if flexible working requests get overwhelming, we also offer HR support on an ad-hoc basis or a retained basis for ongoing support.