Ramadan is the holy month for Muslims, when they do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset. Ramadan is more than just fasting; it is also about cultivating spiritual purity and a virtuous lifestyle. Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.
For employers who have Muslim employees/workers or who provide services to those who are Muslim, understanding Ramadan is important to reducing risk, avoiding direct and indirect discrimination and ensuring employee engagement.
Because Ramadan is calculated on the lunar calendar, it is not a set date each year. This year, Ramadan begins on 5th May and this means that Muslims in the UK will be fasting on some days for 16 hours during daylight.
What effect will this have on employees?
An outcome of the fasting could be that the employee may display low levels of energy (although they may not) or that they are visibly more tired than usual as the night hours are those in which they are able to eat and drink. Another outcome could be that the employee’s mood may change, again due to the lack of food and the effect on sleep.
What support can be offered to help the employee?
The first way to support any employee is by talking to them and asking them about the effect an issue has upon them.
The second could be to reassure employees that the company will approve higher levels of annual leave usage during Ramadan, but only as long as it does not affect the organisation’s ability to deliver its services/achieve its targets.
The third is that, if applicable to the work undertaken, flexible working could be offered to allow the employee to work in a different way if this supports them but at the same time not affect the organisation’s ability to achieve its goals or service its contracts.
Many Muslims also wish to pray more often during Ramadan, typically for a few minutes two or three times a day. Having a quiet and private space to pray is often very much appreciated.
Other employees could be made aware of Ramadan and what happens during this period.
Whilst few Muslims expect colleagues to abstain from eating and drinking in front of them, particularly in workplaces where lunch is commonly eaten at desks, sensitivity is often appreciated.
Working lunches, meetings based around shared food, staff meals and away days that involve Muslim employees are best avoided if possible, or carried out with special arrangements for those who are fasting.
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