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Three ways employers can support employees during Ramadan

With Ramadan having started on 6 June, the most important month in the Islamic calendar is already underway. It is important for employers to be aware of appropriate ways to accommodate Muslim employees during this religious festival. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees on the grounds of their religion or belief. This could be in the form of direct discrimination, such as treating an individual less favourably than someone with a different religion or belief because of their religion or belief, or indirect discrimination, in which working procedures have an adverse effect on specific religious groups.

Here are three important areas in which employers can support Muslim employees during Ramadan and Eid:

1. Sensitivity towards fasting employees

Fasting means that being around food may be challenging for employees observing Ramadan. Employers should not demand that they attend events where the emphasis is on food and drink or they should consider rescheduling these events before or after Ramadan. This sensitivity should also extend to other employees, for example, encouraging them to ask a fasting colleague if they’re comfortable with food or drink being consumed in front of them.

2. Flexible working options

Fasting between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan means that observers have a very long day without food. One way to address this is to build in more flexibility, such as scheduling important meetings in the morning or allowing employees to work through their lunch break so that they can start late or finish early. This flexibility can cover break periods, temporarily providing different times, whilst making it clear that this is a short-term arrangement only.

3. Eid leave requests

Ramadan will provisionally finish on 5 July this year, marking the beginning of Eid al-Fitr. One of the most important occasions in the Muslim calendar, the religious holiday lasts for a number of days. It is common for Muslim employees to request a period of leave to celebrate Eid.  With the date varying from year to year, this can result in employees making holiday requests at short notice. Employers should only reject these requests if they have a strong business case to justify it. Look at ways to proactively address these issues by having a clear set of policies and procedures for leave arrangements during Eid, including making suitable cover arrangements with other employees.


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