Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and one of the most holy and spiritual times of the year for Muslims all over the world, began on 2 April 2022. It is a time for spiritual reflection, charitable giving, spending time with family and prayer. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Many Muslims will now be fasting, refraining from food and drink during daylight hours, only breaking their fast before sunrise and after sunset. Employers across the UK should consider how best to support their Muslim colleagues throughout the month of Ramadan. Here are some practical tips and things for employers to consider:
Ask questions, do not make assumptions
Everyone will have a different relationship and approach to their faith and not all Muslims will fast throughout Ramadan. There are a number of reasons for this, including pregnancy, physical and mental health, and it is important not to assume a person is or is not fasting.
Those fasting will refrain from eating and drinking (including water) during daylight hours, that can be as long as 14 -15 hours a day without food or water. Understandably, those fasting may suffer from fatigue and dips in energy. Employers should be alive to these needs and allow more frequent rest breaks to enable those fasting to rest, recharge and practice their faith.
Employers should also consider allowing their Muslim colleagues to have flexibility around their working hours to suit their needs. For example, allowing employees to forgo their lunch breaks or to start earlier in favour of finishing early are potential workplace adjustments employers may consider.
Employers should be conscious of scheduling meetings and events during Ramadan and consider any impact on their colleagues who are fasting. As well as fasting, Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer and spending time with family, so employers should bear this in mind when scheduling meetings/events. Meetings should be kept to core working hours to allow Muslim colleagues to celebrate the month of Ramadan. Especially when scheduling international meetings across time zones, it is important to be mindful and aware of scheduling meetings at times that do not impact upon meal times.
The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr, a huge religious celebration. Employers should recognise that the exact date of Eid al-Fitr is not fixed; it is dependent on moon-sightings. Whilst it is expected to take place around 2 May, there is as yet no definite date. Therefore, some employees may request leave at short notice and employers should be proactive and engage with them to accommodate such requests where possible.
Employers can take steps to raise awareness in the workplace by making their other employees aware of Ramadan, what it is and what it signifies for Muslim colleagues. There are many options for employers to raise awareness and celebrate diversity and inclusion throughout Ramadan. Perhaps, most simply of all, employers may decide to wish all of those observing Ramadan health, peace and happiness.