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Supporting employees during Ramadan 2021


Ramadan, the most sacred month in the Islamic faith, begins on Sunday in the UK with Muslims marking this period of religious observance with 29 to 30 days of fasting.

During Ramadan Muslims fast each day from sunset to sunrise until the holy month ends with the celebration of Eid‐Ul‐Fitr.

Ramadan is celebrated on different dates every year but in 2019 it falls between Sunday 5 May and the evening of Tuesday 4 June.

In Britain most Christian festivals are provided for as bank holidays, so it can be difficult for some employers to know how to support employees observing Ramadan.

We look at some key considerations for employers:

  • Improve awareness of Ramadan in your workplace by posting information on staff notice boards or in newsletters etc. so all employees have a greater understanding of what observing Ramadan entails.
  • Be sensitive towards fasting employees as going without food can affect people in different ways. Some staff might, for example, become a little irritable or slightly tired at times, so understanding from work colleagues and managers can be helpful.
  • Try to use the mornings for intellectually‐challenging work and meetings. The effects of fasting may be more noticeable in the afternoons so leave the more routine tasks until later in the day. Showing tolerance about reduced productivity levels will go a long way to supporting those observing Ramadan.
  • Avoid offering food and drink to fasting colleagues. Not eating at lunchtime, for example, can often be challenging.
  • Consider shorter lunch breaks during Ramadan. Although breaks should be kept, a shorter lunch might make it easier for employees to manage their workload if they want to take additional time off to pray.
  • Review your shift patterns. If your business operates on a shift or rota basis, look at changes that allow fasting employees to swap shifts or change working hours in a way that suits everyone. If an employee observing Ramadan is on shift at sunset, consider making special allowances for them so they get ample time to break their fast, pray and eat properly.
  • Introduce flexitime to the usual working day. For those staff in normal “9am‐5pm” roles, you should consider flexible start and finish times. Some employees observing Ramadan may wish to work their lunch hours and breaks in return for an earlier finish.
  • Try to avoid events that all staff must attend during Ramadan so that employees observing it don’t feel excluded. You should consider the effects training events, conferences and offsite (and on‐site) meetings may have on these employees.
  • Manage annual leave requests fairly. Depending on when Ramadan falls, a large portion of annual leave may be used by employees wishing to observe it. You should find a way to accommodate annual leave requests, while at the same time ensuring that requests from all members of staff are managed fairly.
  • Be prepared for staff to take annual leave at the end of Ramadan to celebrate Eid. Bear in mind though that with the dates varying from year to year, employees might submit holiday requests at short notice. You should only reject such requests if you have a strong business reason for doing so.
  • Have a written policy on all religious observance. This will assist managers in ensuring that they treat all staff fairly and do not discriminate on the grounds of religion.

Showing greater understanding and accommodating employees’ particular needs during Ramadan is good management and helps ensures staff perform to the best of their abilities.

Implementing policies that support those employees observing Ramadan also helps to nurture mutual trust and results in greater productivity.