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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wakelin

What do employers need to know about Ramadan?

Updated: May 25, 2023

Ramadan is the holy month of the Islamic calendar, it begins on 22 March and lasts until 21 April 2023.

Throughout Ramadan, many Muslims will fast during daylight hours. Those that fast may completely abstain from all food and drink including water during this time, which may have a significant impact on their energy levels and ability to concentrate at work.

What affects can observing Ramadan have on employees?

Those who observe Ramadan, may fast between sunrise and sunset for one month and, during that month, the days get longer and therefore the hours of abstaining from food and drink get longer. This can have a dramatic affect on an individual, especially as the day go on, when energy levels and productivity can fall.

How does an employer support those fasting throughout Ramadan?

It is important for employers to remember that they should not treat those observing Ramadan less favourably than others, including how they respond to the affects of fasting.

In order to do this, employers should understand their employees by speaking to them and openly discussing and considering their needs. Not all Muslims will fast throughout Ramadan, so it is important not to make assumptions and, those that do, may be reluctant to open up about the possible impact fasting may have on their performance. It is important therefore that employers and managers are approachable and ready to understand different situations.

In addition to this, Companies should consider having a religious observances policy, to ensure that managers approach religious situations consistently, positively and within the law. It is also important to remember that any policy should be inclusive of all religions to avoid discrimination.

What practical support can an employer offer employees throughout Ramadan?

Although fasting affects everyone differently, some individuals can experience fatigue and may wish to take advantage of flexible working arrangements.

Since fasting is restricted to the daytime hours only, flexible working during Ramadan such as changing shift patterns and working times, adding in more frequent breaks or allowing employees to work from home may help. Alternatively, some employees may wish to take advantage of their holiday entitlement or prefer to avoid events that involve food and drink.

Employers should speak to employees on an individual basis and discuss with them how they can support them and accommodate their individual needs. That said, requests should be processed through the usual procedures, ie in relation to booking holiday entitlement. Where an employer is unable to accommodate individual requests, they should consider alternative ways to support them, where they can, to ensure performance and productivity remain satisfactory during Ramadan.

What is religious harassment?

Unfortunately, employees may face harassment or unwanted treatment in relation to their religious beliefs and observances, especially where other employees perceive that they are being given special treatment and adjustments.

It is therefore important that employers have robust anti-bullying, harassment and dignity at work policies in place and make it clear to all employees that action will be taken against anyone found responsible for offensive behaviour including unwanted workplace banter.

SWan HR Consultancy (London and Kent)

SWan HR is an HR consultancy that specialises in HR support for small to medium sized businesses in the South East.

"Where HR Succeeds, the Business Achieves"

SWan HR was founded by Susan Wakelin, MCIPD, who is a qualified HR professional with over thirty years' experience, from setting up, auditing and improving HR functions to management coaching and supporting organisations through difficult situations, transformation and change.

SWan HR provides a broad range of tailored HR services including an HR audit, HR advice, HR outsourcing, HR coaching and project work for all businesses.

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