How to be a supportive employer during Ramadan

Gavin Scarr Hall - Director of Health and Safety

April 06 2022

During this month, your staff may not be eating or drinking for 17 hours a day.  

From Saturday 2nd April to Sunday 1st May, members of the Islamic community will be observing Ramadan; a month for worship, fasting, reflection, and community celebration.

You might worry about the impact of fasting on your employees. Will they be able to work? Will they need time off? Will you need to put measures in place?

If you don’t tread carefully, you could end up facing a religious discrimination claim. To be a supportive employer and eliminate legal risk, take these five steps…

Educate and raise awareness

You should never make assumptions about who might be observing Ramadan. Some Muslims may be exempt from fasting. This is why you need to educate yourself and other staff on Islamic culture. Communicate with your employees, so you know who’s taking part in advance.

Show your staff that what matters to them matters to you.

Educate all your staff on what Ramadan involves and how they can support their colleagues. Your employees will appreciate an employer who makes the effort to understand and support them.

Consider flexible working

You should consider the impact fasting may have on staff performance. If your employee is tired and hungry, they’re likely to struggle at work. They’ll probably anticipate this, so expect requests for time off or flexible working.

It may be a good idea to let fasting employees:

  • work from home – staff may be up at 4am or even earlier; they might be too exhausted to be in a busy work environment around colleagues or face a commute
  • take reduced hours – staff may not have the energy to work the set hours, so a temporary reduction may prevent them from burning out
  • work flexitime – staff may want to start work earlier and leave work earlier to break their fast at home and work when they feel most refreshed

Accommodate flexible working requests as best you can. You could be in legal trouble if you don’t make any adjustments or reject requests without reasonable justification.

Your employee’s performance is likely to dip during Ramadan but if you take disciplinary action against them, it may lead to a discrimination claim. If you allow your employee to work flexibly, they’re more likely to perform better under the circumstances.

You don’t want your staff to burn out from exhaustion, but you also might need them in work. Ultimately, try to come to an arrangement that suits everyone.

Make temporary adjustments

If you need your employee in work, they can’t work flexibly, or you want to go one step further, consider making temporary adjustments. Sit down with your employee to discuss any issues that are likely to come up during the month and how you can prepare for them.

An adjustment might mean:

  • rescheduling meetings for the morning when your fasting employees are likely to be the most rested and energised
  • allowing your employee to take more breaks throughout the day, so they have time to rest and practice their faith
  • saving meals from the canteen, so your fasting staff don’t get the leftovers

Listen to your employee and find out what they need. Remember, fasting can affect people differently. So, don’t make assumptions and keep checking in.

Be fair with annual leave requests

You might get an influx of annual leave requests from employees observing Ramadan. Staff are likely to want time off around the end of the month when they’ll be celebrating Eid.

As the dates of Ramadan work around the Lunar calendar, it can be difficult for those who observe to plan in advance. So, you might not get much notice.

You should still follow your company’s annual leave policy but try to accommodate all requests if possible. If you can’t, work with your employees to see if you can agree on an alternative solution.

If you’re not sure how to manage staff absences or are worried about potential clashes, consider using online HR software.

Manage holiday requests on the go

Keep track of staff absences and approve or reject holiday requests on the go with BrightHR.

Learn more

Introduce a policy

Having a specific policy on religious observance makes managing staff expectations a lot easier. With a policy, you don’t have to come up with rules on the spot and run the risk of being inconsistent or unfair. Your policy can clearly outline your rules for employees who observe religious holidays and the support you’re going to provide.

Confirm in your policy whether your employees can take time off for religious observance. If so, explain whether you’ll provide paid leave, unpaid leave, or if they’ll need to take it out of their holiday allowance. You should also explain your process for managing holiday requests, so staff are less likely to accuse you of being unfair if you approve some requests and reject others.

If you do choose to have a specific policy on Ramadan, be mindful of other religions. If you make allowances for employees who observe one religion, you should do the same for others. If you don’t, your employees could accuse you of discrimination.

Your policy should be neutral, fair, and inclusive of all.

Prevent religious discrimination in your workplace

Setting up a policy on religious festivals is a complicated task. Fortunately, you can leave it to your expert contract consultants at Peninsula. They’ll craft watertight contracts and T&Cs that protect you from legal risk – and they’re just a phone call away.

If you’re not yet a client with Peninsula, get a free quote and start accessing unlimited HR support today.

Need to set up a policy?

Get professional policies and contracts written up for you by employment law experts.

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