Ramadan: A time for fasting and flexible working?

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

April 26 2019

For 1.6 billion Muslims, Ramadan is a welcome chance to reconnect with religion and family. It’s also a month of nocturnal eating and sporadic sleeping. So for Muslim staff fasting in your workplace, energy levels can dwindle towards the end of a long day with no food or drink. But there are ways your business can help employees throughout the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Be flexible Any employee can make a flexible working request as long as they’ve worked for you for at least 26 weeks, and you can even waive that requirement if you’re feeling generous.   You have to consider flexible working requests, but you can refuse them if you won’t be able to meet your customers’ needs with a staff shortage. Remember that flexible working requests for religious reasons shouldn’t be treated differently to a flexible working request for any other reason. Because if you turn down your employee’s request and it stops them meeting their religious needs during Ramadan, then you could risk a claim for religious discrimination. Are there any workplace changes or tweaks to their working routine you could make to help make Ramadan a little easier? Flexible working examples For Muslims, Ramadan means long days without lunch, late nights and very early mornings. To help staff, you could:
  •         Let them change their shifts 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 letting them work from home if they have a long commute to and from work.
  •         Rethink heavy-duty staff tasks and do extra risk assessments, especially for manual workers where tiredness could have serious health & safety considerations.
Time off No matter how flexible you are, your staff might want time off to catch up with their friends and family—or maybe just their sleep. Your staff 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, that could be a risky move. And as Ramadan draws to a close, you might see a spike in annual leave requests… Eid-ul-Fitr At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. And because it depends on a sighting of the crescent moon (which marks the start of the next month), the day of Eid is never guaranteed. 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 staff time off and keeping your business ticking over? You could introduce a religious observance policy that outlines how you’ll treat holiday requests linked to religious practices. A word of warning: make sure your policy is fair and includes all religions, not just one. Then, once Ramadan starts, you could ask staff to book holidays in advance for when Eid might fall to avoid disappointment. Need help with your religious observance policy to get your business ready for Ramadan? Call us today.

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