This Sunday (5 May 2019) signifies the beginning of Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims often commit to a period of fasting during day light hours. Organisations, unfamiliar with the practice can be unsure of how to respond, therefore we have outlined 5 top tips below for supporting staff during this time:
As with most matters, is it important to have honest and open communication with staff who stand to be affected by their religious observance commitments during Ramadan. It is important to remember that individuals may initially be hesitant to approach senior figures about how these commitments could impact their performance, therefore line managers should remain approachable and understanding to the situation.
Given the physical demands of daytime fasting, staff may require some adjustments to be made to their working routine during Ramadan. This could include altering shift patterns, allowing staff to start and finish earlier in the day to aid with daytime fasting, or amending workplace duties to reduce the chance of fatigue impacting performance or increasing risk of injury. It is important to remember that the requirements may affect each person differently and organisations should refrain from taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to flexible working arrangements.
Consider that some individuals may wish to use their annual leave entitlement during Ramadan to allow them sufficient opportunity to rest during times of fasting, or to participate in the Eid celebrations that follow. Whilst it will be fair to expect staff to request time off in the usual way and provide sufficient notice, it may be wise to make an exception where possible to avoid discrimination, such as where requests occur on short notice or clash with other team members.
Unfortunately, it can be the case that Muslim employees are at an increased risk of suffering religious harassment at work during Ramadan, either at the hands of third parties or their fellow colleagues. Other staff may have the misconception that Muslim employees are receiving ‘special privileges’ and you should work to dispel any notion of this. Also, make sure to remind staff that appropriate action will be taken against anyone found responsible for offensive behaviour and that ‘workplace banter’ will not be accepted as a legitimate excuse for discrimination.
Given the importance of Ramadan to Muslim employees it would be advisable to outline your approach in a religious observance policy, giving individuals a clear source of information on their rights at work during this time. Having said this, any policy will need to be inclusive, giving equal footing to other religious, in order to avoid further claims of religious discrimination.