Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar; it’s observed by Muslims as a month of fasting to learn about discipline and self-restraint. This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on Saturday May 27th and will last until June 24th.
In the Arab world, Ramadan brings shortened work hours but in the UK it’s often business as usual. So how can you support your employees during this season?
The dates for Ramadan vary each year depending on the first sight of the new moon and it’s often not known until a day or so before it is expected to happen. That means that employees may put in a request for time off over Eid without knowing the exact dates.
A bit of flexibility is required with this – perhaps the employee requests two days of annual leave to cover the two possible dates but ends up only taking the day that Eid actually falls on. You may also want to consider flexible working as an option for the duration of Ramadan.
There is no automatic entitlement for time off due to Ramadan. Your employees should submit their holiday requests in the normal way and you can authorise them according to your usual rules. It would be reasonable to consider giving an employee unpaid leave, if you can accommodate it operationally.
The key is to treat all your employees the same regardless of their religious beliefs, or lack thereof. While each request for time off or special arrangements will turn on its own circumstances and business reasons at that time, the best approach is to ensure a neutral policy. There is no need to be afraid of discrimination claims when you act reasonably, fairly and in line with legitimate business reasons.
In the UK the length of the daily fast is expected to be around 18 hours and lack of sleep can be a concern during Ramadan. With evening prayers not starting until around 9pm followed by the iftar meal, late nights are a part of Ramadan so take this into consideration when scheduling early morning meetings.
Employees who are observing the fast are likely to have more energy earlier in the day. Try to organise meetings and conference calls when they are likely to be at their most alert, or allow them to work part days in the office and complete work from home after breaking the fast.
Although there is technically no obligation, you could consider allowing increased breaks during Ramadan. Some employees may wish to use their breaks to pray or break their fast; others may request to change break times in order to coincide with daily prayer. You might want to consider doing a risk assessment if your employees drive or do manual work, as they may be feeling weaker, have less energy or be fatigued due to the fast; perhaps see if amended duties will be necessary and/or possible.