Ramadan can be a difficult time for Muslims in the workplace if their employer and colleagues know nothing about the observance of Ramadan.
To help you understand how to best accommodate the needs of your Muslim staff during Ramadan, we have highlighted 6 ways in which you can support them:
1. Devise and circulate a strong policy on religious observance
Make sure employees are aware that you have a policy in place to make sure their needs are met.
Update any employee handbook with information on how you support staff with this important part of their lives.
It is also a great idea to also raise awareness of Ramadan, as well as other religious festivals, by providing information on staff notice boards, newsletters or team meetings.
It is key to celebrate all religious festivals in the same way to promote acceptance.
Guidance has been produced by the Muslim Council of Britain on #SafeRamadan, which explains the impact of the pandemic and how Muslims can stay safe during Ramadan.
2. Understanding can prevent a dip in productivity during Ramadan
Fasting affects people differently, some cope very well, some experience irritability or energy drops, so an understanding manager and team can go a long way in making the individual feel supported in the workplace.
Fasting employees may experience a dip in performance during this time or simply a lack of energy.
It's crucial that you remain mindful of delivering negative feedback or discipline an employee whose performance is affected because they're fasting. You might find yourself accused of discrimination.
Criticism of an employee’s diminished productivity due to fasting during Ramadan has been held to be direct racial discrimination and harassment by the employment tribunal.
3. Ramadan in the workplace: allow time for prayer
You might already have a dedicated space for your employees to worship, or you are considering creating one, the important thing to consider is that it must be a safe and private space.
Don't worry if you do not have the facility to do so, a simple quiet meeting room booked for them would suffice, or allowing them to pop to a local mosque for prayers.
Scheduled breaks are important and should be maintained as much as possible, however, a shorter lunch may make it easier for an employee to manage their workload, especially if they intend to take time off to worship.
4. Find a way to accommodate annual leave requests
It can be challenging to be fair to all employees when presented with a lot of requests for time off at the same time to observe the Ramadan.
The most important thing is to be flexible, remember to discuss annual leave with all, in order to make sure the business can run efficiently during this time.
Eid, the end of Ramadan, can also be a popular time for employees to take annual leave, so it's important to try and accommodate annual leave requests as much as possible, during this period, especially for new employees who may not have had the chance to book time off in advance.
As employees are automatically granted most Christian holidays off work as bank holidays, you should be equally as supportive of other significant religious events such as Ramadan and Eid.
5. Be mindful of lunch meetings, events and celebrations
To promote sensitivity towards Ramadan in the workplace, try to avoid offering food and drink to those who are fasting, especially during meetings.
In fact, it may be better to avoid events for all staff during Ramadan as people could be fasting, and there may be food on offer.
Employees may be reluctant to attend training events and conferences during Ramadan.
You can discuss the employee’s concerns and make any suitable adjustments, but ultimately you should respect their wishes, as failure to do so will likely amount to religious discrimination.
It's OK to ask Muslim colleagues if they will be observing Ramadan. Not everyone will be fasting, as it is a personal choice.
6. Be flexible with core working hours
It can be tough to work eight hours straight on an empty stomach, so it may be an idea to create the ideal schedule for Ramadan, by discussing it with your staff.
Consider allowing your staff to work from home, or start their working day earlier so they can leave earlier.
It may be preferable for these employees to work through their lunch hour and go home early instead.
The idea is to negotiate a timetable that works for both productivity and the employee.
Empathy and understanding are essential to running a seamless operation during periods of religious observance such as Ramadan.
With proper forward planning, great communication and by engaging employees at the earliest opportunity, you will minimise the possibility of employee relations issues.
It is important to bear in mind that everyone’s religious beliefs are unique and personal to them.
Therefore, you should avoid making any assumptions or generalisations by speaking to Muslim employees observing Ramadan on an individual basis so that you understand how best to support them and accommodate their needs during this time.