In 2023, Ramadan will be observed between Wednesday 22 March and Thursday 20 April. During this holy month, many Muslims fast during daylight hours. Some completely abstain from all food and drink during the fasting period, whereas others may take a different approach. Naturally, this can have a significant impact on an employee’s performance and availability for work. There are a number of things your client can do to prepare for, and manage, this time.
Honest and open communication with those who stand to be affected by Ramadan is critical. A dialogue will be needed around what their needs are. Individuals may initially be hesitant to approach senior figures about how these commitments could impact their performance, therefore line managers should remain approachable and understanding to the situation. They should also be prepared to discuss this with non-Muslim employees who may have to change their own work to accommodate their colleagues.
Some employees may prefer to use annual leave during Ramadan, or for the Eid celebrations after. Whilst it is important to be consistent with the normal rules for holiday booking, it may be that exceptions are needed for last minute requests or where a number of employees want the same time off.
Even if the full period cannot be accommodated, your client should work with their employees to find alternatives, such as allowing part of the leave or redistributing work amongst their team. Being flexible and supportive during this time will ensure positive employee relations and show respect for individual employees.
Given the physical demands of fasting, some employees may require adjustments to their working routine during Ramadan. This could include altering shift patterns, changing start and finish times (fasting begins at sunrise so 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.
Given the importance of Ramadan to Muslim employees, it is a good idea for your client 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.
Unfortunately, Muslim employees may face unwanted treatment and/or religious harassment at work during Ramadan, either at the hands of third parties or their colleagues. It may be that other staff see adjustments made for them as special treatment or resent additional duties they have been asked to pick up as a result. Your client will need to work to dispel any notion of this and 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 an excuse for discrimination.
This is a time for your client to show their employees how important they are to the business, and that their individual circumstances are respected. Taking steps to manage this properly will foster further employee motivation, engagement and commitment.
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