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Observing Ramadan in 2022

Saturday 2 April 2022 signifies the beginning of Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims often commit to a period of fasting during day light hours.


As more employees are working in the office than in the last two years, employers should be reviewing the measures they have in place for employees observing Ramadan and what support they need.


Communication


As should be the case for most matters between employer and employee, is it important to have honest and open communication with staff who stand to be affected by their religious observance commitments during Ramadan. Whether they are working in the office, at home, or from another location, a dialogue will be needed around what their needs are. It is important to remember that 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.



Annual leave


It may be that individuals prefer to use their annual leave during Ramadan, as it's affects can be physically taxing. Alternatively, they may want to save it for the Eid celebrations after. Whilst it is important to be consistent with the rules that are normally applied to holiday booking, it may be that exceptions will need to be made where requests come in at the last minute, or where there are a number of team members wishing to have the same period off.


Even if the full period cannot be accommodated, employers should work with their management team and employees to see if there are any other options, such as allowing part of the leave or redistributing work amongst team members.


Flexible working


Given the physical demands of daytime fasting, staff may require some adjustments to be made to their working routine during Ramadan, even if they are working from home. This could include measures such as altering shift patterns, changing start and finish times to aid with daytime fasting (as fasting begins at sunrise moving the day forward may help these employees), or amending workplace duties to reduce the chance of fatigue impacting performance or increasing risk of injury. It is important to remember that fasting can affect each person differently and as such decisions on this should be made on an individual basis, involving the employee, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach to flexible working arrangements.


Monitoring can be difficult for staff who are geographically spread out, and / or working from home. Allowing for flexibility will be one of the most important tools for employers to ensure job performance and productivity remains stable during the month of Ramadan.


Policy


Given the importance of Ramadan to Muslim employees it would be advisable to highlight the organisation’s approach in a religious observance policy, giving individuals a clear source of information on their rights at work during this time. Having said this, any policy will need to be inclusive, giving equal footing to other religious, in order to avoid further claims of religious discrimination.


Harassment


Unfortunately, there is the potential for Muslim employees to face unwanted treatment and / or religious harassment at work during Ramadan, either at the hands of third parties or their fellow colleagues. It may be that other staff see adjustments made for their Muslim colleagues as special treatment, or resent any additional duties they have been asked to pick up as a result. Organisations should 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 a legitimate excuse for discrimination.


The impact of fasting


Employees who observe Ramadan are required to fast between sunrise and sunset. As days are becoming longer, this usually means employees are spending a long time without food and will be working during these hours.


Organisations may look to be more flexible with how the employees day is structured, perhaps scheduling important meetings in the morning when energy levels of employees are likely to be higher.


A restricted intake of food may have a negative impact on productivity levels, especially towards later working hours. Organisations should take this into consideration where there are any temporary drops in performance for Muslim employees. Muslim employees should not be treated less favourably because they are observing Ramadan, and this extends to the affects of fasting. To do otherwise could amount to discrimination. Instead, organisations can proactively consider altering shifts or allow regular short breaks if employees are lacking energy.


Employees may receive requests from staff who do not wish to attend training events or client meetings that involve food and drink. Organisations should carefully consider these requests and arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss their reservations and consider whether an alternative arrangement can be reached, bearing in mind the reasons for the request.


As an Employer, if you need any assistance in supporting your employees, then please do contact us.

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