HR Expert: Observing Ramadan in the workplace

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This year, Ramadan falls between 10 March and 8 April. A number of clients have employees who will be observing Ramadan, and so I have a few questions about what employers can do to support these staff member during that time. Can you provide some advice that I can pass on?

Ramdan is a holy month in the Islamic calendar, and it is marked by followers of this faith in various ways, including fasting during daylight hours. Some Muslims will completely abstain from all food and drink during the fasting period, whereas others may take a different approach. There is also a tradition of breaking their fast with a family meal, along with prayers. This can have a significant impact on an employee’s performance and availability for work. As such, it is best to plan ahead and make arrangements now so that when it comes to Ramadan itself your clients and their employees know what to expect.

Discuss and agree plans with affected staff

Staff members who are intending to fast or who will need time off during Ramadan can be encouraged to make themselves known, or contacted directly by line managers who are already aware of their intentions, in order to discuss what changes, if any, might be needed during Ramadan. Whilst your clients do not have to agree to make any changes, if they are able to do so then they should strongly consider allowing them in order to allow their employee to practise their faith, ensure good employee relations, and avoid any allegations of discrimination.

Communication will also be necessary with employees who are not participating in Ramadan but who are nevertheless affected it by it through the accommodations made for their colleagues who are. For example, they may be asked to take on additional or other duties, to pick up over time or to make some other change to ensure the work is done. Talking to them first about this and getting their agreement will allow your clients to smooth over any issues.

Flexible working

Given the physical demands of fasting, especially as the days get longer and the window of fasting increases (as it takes place between sunrise and sundown) some employees may require adjustments to their working routine during Ramadan. This could include altering shift patterns, changing start and finish times (moving the day forward may help), or amending duties to reduce fatigue impacting performance or increasing risk of injury.

Fasting can affect each person differently and as such decisions should be on an individual basis, rather than a “one size fits all” approach. Before any decisions are made, the situation should be discussed with the employee and their line manager so that the best solution can be found.

Annual leave

Some employees may ask to take annual leave during Ramadan, or for the Eid celebrations after. It is important to be consistent with the normal rules for holiday booking, but there may be exceptions needed for last minute requests or where a number of employees want the same time off.

Policy

Given the importance of Ramadan to Muslim employees, it is a good idea for your clients to highlight their approach in a religious observance policy, giving individuals a source of information on their rights at work during this time. Any policy will need to be inclusive, giving equal footing to all religions.


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