Supporting employees during Ramadan

Millions of Muslims across the country observe Ramadan.

Ramadan lasts for approximately 30 days, culminating in the celebration of Eid Ul-Fitr. During this period, Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset; they will not eat food, drink liquids or smoke. It is also a time of prayer and to give to charity.

This year, Ramadan begins on Sunday, May 5th and ends on Tuesday 4th June.

eid al-ahda ramadan

In this article, we will highlight the key practical considerations that employers and managers need to be aware of when managing employees who observe Ramadan.

The law

It is against the law to treat an employee less favourably because of their religion or belief. This means that employers cannot dismiss someone, refuse to promote someone, or deny training to someone because of their religion. 

Flexible working

You should think about whether it is viable to implement temporary flexible working arrangements during Ramadan. This could involve being flexible about working hours, rest times and duties. For example, you may allow employees to start their working day later, allow them to work through lunch, let them leave work earlier or work from home.

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Definitive Guide to Flexible Working

Health & Safety

Fasting can have an impact on employees’ concentration and judgement. As such, you should consider whether there are any health and safety risks that need to be addressed to ensure everyone in the workplace is safe. This is especially the case if the employee is operating heavy machinery or undertaking a dangerous role. Speaking with a Health & Safety Consultant would be a good place to start.

Prayer

You may also consider whether it is possible to allow short breaks for prayers or provide a room for employees to pray.

If you have a rule that prohibits praying in the workplace, you must consider whether indirect discrimination could arise. This rule would apply to all employees; however, it wouldn’t adversely impact a Roman Catholic, who wouldn’t normally be expected to pray at set times during the day, but it would adversely impact a Muslim where there is that requirement.

Performance

Fasting can also affect employees’ performance, productivity and morale. However, if you penalise or discipline an employee due to the fact that they are fasting, you leave yourself open to claims of unlawful discrimination.

Harassment

You should try and make everyone in the workplace aware of Ramadan by putting a notice in the common room or sending around an email. It’s important in any workplace that employees are sensitive to people’s religious and personal beliefs and show understanding and tolerance.

Making jokes or comments to an employee whose productivity is lower than normal because they are fasting could lead to claims of harassment on the grounds of religious belief.

Scheduling

If practical, you may wish to schedule meetings and appraisals in the morning or at the start of an employee’s shift when they have the most energy.

It is generally recommended to avoid scheduling meetings or making employees feel compelled to come to social events revolving around food or drink during Ramadan, as this can create uncomfortable situations for all involved.

There is no legal automatic entitlement to time off – employees will need to submit their requests in accordance with your company’s annual leave policy.

Annual leave requests

You may notice that you receive a higher number of annual leave requests during this time, especially around the time of Eid Ul-Fitr.

There is no legal automatic entitlement to time off – employees will need to submit their requests in accordance with your company’s annual leave policy. Of course, you may be not be able to grant all requests, but you should try to be as reasonable and fair as possible when allocating leave to employees and accommodate requests as best as you can. If you refuse, you should have clear business reasons to justify the negative response.

It’s always worth reminding employees at the beginning of the annual leave calendar to book early to avoid disappointment and to coordinate with their colleagues to work out any disputes over leave.

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