Supporting Employees During Ramadan

During Ramadan, Muslims across the world fast from sunrise to sunset, as one of the pillars of Islam. Ramadan began on Wednesday 22nd March this year and many Muslims will now fast for 30 days, until 21 April, with Eid on 22 April.

During this time it is important for co-workers and managers to be aware of the challenges that this can place on our Muslim colleagues. It is also important that HR educate the workforce to appreciate that for many Muslims this practise is not a weight management or lifestyle decision, it is a fundamental obligation of their faith.

It is the role of HR and managers to educate their team and even in the UK today you might have team members who don’t fully understand the significance of Ramadan to their Muslim colleagues. It’s important that you have open conversations and share reading materials to help your employees learn.

Our Muslim colleagues are often happy to share in the excitement of other faiths around Christmas time and organisations should encourage non Muslim employees share the same interest and celebration with their Muslim colleagues and to learn more about Ramadan. It is also likely to avoid any uncomfortable moments or colleagues making insensitive comments.

There are no formal rights for Muslims in terms of employment practise or specific allowances during Ramadan but as every good organisation aims to be inclusive and to respect the practises of all faiths and none, what can managers and team members think about and do to show their support…

The first thing is be flexible in terms of Eid ul-Fitr. The end of Ramadan is marked by the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr. This is a big celebration, similar to Christmas in the Christian faith but it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly and plan for a few days off work to be with family, so employers should try to maintain some flexibility around what is usually a 2 or 3 day window.

Beyond this here are a few more ideas to consider:

Think about when you’re scheduling meetings

When planning meetings and events during Ramadan ask those employees who will be fasting what works best for them. Those fasting will likely have more energy earlier in the day so their mood and concentration might be best between 8am and 11am.

While those fasting are probably used to others eating and drinking in front of them it may make them feel left out or in the spot light for not joining in. So try to avoid events and meetings at core meal times.

If you have a social team and are planning any work drinks or treats such as ordering lunch in or going for a meal out, consider waiting until Ramadan is concluded so that everyone can attend.

Think about changes to normal working hours

If you are able to allow employees more flexibility during this period it will help to ensure the employee is able to do their best work. It is obvious that energy levels will fall as the day goes on so think about earlier starts and finishes. We also need to think about those working on shifts whose official break time might be much later than sunset, when they would normally break their fast. Most employees fasting would gladly start a little earlier in exchange for an additional break to eat at sunset.

Lastly everyone can be understanding and empathetic to fasting staff

Many of us will know colleagues we might get a bit ‘hangry’ from time to time but fasting from sunrise to sunset, including water can take a real toll, both physically and mentally. It will invariably impact productivity, especially if the work is physically demanding and as the weather warms up, so it is important to make allowances for this.

Being open and acknowledging this will help those fasting to open up and talk about how it is affecting them and possibly their work.