How can employers support employees who are observing Ramadan?

Ramadan is a holy month of the Islamic calendar. During this time many Muslims will fast each day between sunrise and sunset and perform additional prayers and other religious duties.

Here are ways in which employers can support their employees who are observing Ramadan, especially during the affects of the pandemic: 

  • Be aware of the potential effects on employees of not eating or drinking during the day, combined with a change to sleep patterns, and should consider taking steps to support them.
  • Don’t assume 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. Employers could encourage all employees to discuss with them any impact that they think fasting could have on their work, and any measures that could be helpful.
  • Consider arranging shifts to accommodate employees’ preferences where possible, for example so that the employee can be at home to break the fast at sunset. Currently, your staff may be working from home so discuss any changes to their working pattern even from home.
  • Consider accommodating requests for annual leave. Some individuals may wish to use their annual leave entitlement during Ramadan to allow them sufficient opportunity to rest during times of fasting, or to participate in the Eid celebrations that follow. Whilst it will be fair to expect staff to request time off in the usual way and provide sufficient notice, it may be wise to make an exception where possible to avoid discrimination, such as where requests occur on short notice or clash with other team members. 
  • Make colleagues aware that it is Ramadan and encourage them to be supportive of their fasting colleagues, in particular by not offering them food or drink.
  • Unfortunately, it can be the case that Muslim employees are at an increased risk of suffering religious harassment at work during Ramadan, either at the hands of third parties or their fellow colleagues. Other staff may have the misconception that Muslim employees are receiving ‘special privileges’, especially if they are given time off or increased flexibility during the outbreak, and organisations should work to dispel any notion of this. Also, 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.
  • Try to avoid scheduling work-related social events during Ramadan.
  • Don’t expect fasting employees to meet with clients over lunch.
  • Enable 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 involving operating machinery in the morning, and tasks that are less physically or mentally demanding later in the day, and
  • Allow flexible working, for example an earlier start time, a short lunch break or extra breaks for prayer.

There are useful Ramadan timetables available on the internet so you can see what time sunrise and sunset are.