Ramadan in the workplace

Date: Wednesday, 15th May, 2019

For Muslims, Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Beginning on Sunday 5th May and ending on Tuesday 4th June, Muslims will be fasting and taking part in religious practices for 30 days.

Being aware of the personal and religious sensitivities of employees and understanding and accommodating their particular needs, shows good management and helps ensure people perform to the best of their abilities.

If you have employees fasting in your workplace from sunrise to sunset, energy levels could decline towards the end of the day so you need to consider:

Being flexible

Any employee can make a flexible working request as long as they’ve worked for you for at least 26 weeks.

You have to consider flexible working requests, but can refuse them if it causes an adverse effect on your business.

Remember that flexible working requests for religious reasons shouldn’t be treated differently to any other flexible working request.  If you turn down an employee’s request and it stops them meeting their religious needs during Ramadan, then you could run the risk of a claim for discrimination on the grounds of religion.

Examples of flexible working

Maybe give some thought to any workplace changes or tweaks that you could make during Ramadan to make your employees working routine a little easier?

Ramadan means long days without lunch, late nights and very early mornings. To help employees, you could consider the following:

  • Letting them work from home if they have a long commute to and from work.
  • Letting them change their shift patterns, so they either start work earlier or finish work later. That way, you’ll get the best out of your employees when they have the most energy.
  • Think about any heavy-duty employee tasks and do extra risk assessments, especially for manual workers where tiredness could have serious health & safety implications.

Taking time off

No matter how flexible you are, your employees might want time off to catch up with their friends and family—or maybe just catch up on their sleep.

Your employees could request time off work during Ramadan in the same way they would at any other time of year. If you deny a request purely because it’s Ramadan, you could cause yourself problems.

Eid-ul-Fitr

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr (festival of fast breaking) and you may see a jump in annual leave requests because of it.

If you have a large Muslim workforce, you could get volumes of requests for time off at the last minute for the same day.

So what’s the best way of giving employees time off and keeping your business ticking over?

You could consider introducing a policy on religious holidays, that outlines how you would treat holiday requests linked to religious practices.  Remember it is important that you ensure this policy is fair and includes all religions.

If you need further guidance on any HR issues, please get in touch.

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