4 Tips On How Employers Can Support Staff During Ramadan
The Law Of… Creating An Inclusive Working Environment
The evening of Friday 26th May 2017 marks the beginning of Ramadan – a month-long period of prayer, fasting, and charitable giving for Muslims around the world.
With many individuals choosing to fast during Ramadan, it's important for employers to think about how this could impact their employees in the workplace and what support they can put in place for them.
Zee Hussain, Partner and Head of Corporate Services, shares 4 important tips for employers.
What Is Ramadan?
Ramadan marks the 9th month of the Islamic year and as it follows the lunar cycle it begins on different days every year. Muslims believe that it was during this 9th month that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. It's seen as the holiest month of the year and a time for Muslims to practice spirituality and self-denial.
Ramadan falls around 11 days earlier each year, and with Ramadan starting in May this year, Muslims will be fasting for as long as 18 hours each day.
During the month, many Muslims don't eat or drink during daylight hours. The fast is broken each day at sundown with a communal meal – this is known as Iftar. Not all Muslims need to fast – children and people who are unwell, breastfeeding, pregnant, menstruating, elderly, or travelling on a journey don't need to fast; however, they may need to make up any missed fasting days at a later date.
4 Tips On Supporting Employees During Ramadan
Although many Muslims continue working during Ramadan, fasting can result in tiredness and affect their concentration.
This can be concerning for employers, but it's important to remember that the Equality Act 2010 protects employees from being treated less favourably or discriminated against because of their religion.
Whilst it's important not to fall foul of these laws, remember that taking a positive and proactive approach to Ramadan is good for both your business and your employees. Cohesion helps to drive engagement and ensures your employees feel supported.
1. Educate Your Employees About Ramadan
It's a good idea to speak to your staff about Ramadan and explain how it could affect their colleagues – they can then consider how they can offer support to them.
Having a clear policy on Ramadan in your employee handbook that sets out expected employee standards is also good practice.
2. Be Prepared For Holiday Requests
The end of Ramadan is known as Eid and is one of the most important religious holidays for Muslims, lasting for 3 days. Employers should find out when this is taking place, and expect to receive an influx of annual leave requests for the same time frame.
This year, Eid is expected to begin on Sunday 25th June.
Holiday requests should be dealt with as usual, according to your policies. As Ramadan falls during the summer period at a time when annual leave is already in high demand, it's advisable to notify employees to anticipate this and book their leave early.
Requests may still be refused if there is a business reason, but refusing to allow someone to have time off for a religious holiday is unlawful and could give rise to a discrimination claim.
3. Consider Offering Flexible Working
It's common for employees who are fasting during Ramadan to become more tired than usual throughout the working day. Offering them the option of working flexibly is beneficial for your staff and your business as it enables them to remain more productive. You can consider:
- Holding meetings at earlier times during the day
- Arranging shifts and working hours differently for the month
- Encouraging your employees to take regular breaks
Remember that in order to refuse a request for different shifts you have to show clear business reasons for doing so.
If the refusal is due to the religious holiday, then this may give rise to a discrimination claim.
4. Take Part In The Eid Celebrations
Embracing the festivities and getting involved with the Eid celebrations at work is a positive way of encouraging inclusion. You could, for example, arrange an Iftar for one night after work or treat your team to lunch. This helps bring employees together and promotes an understanding working environment.
How Can Simpson Millar's Employment Lawyers Help My Business?
Understanding how different religious events could impact your workforce is essential, as this will help you to ensure your staff is supported and identify how to minimise disruption in the workplace.
If you need some advice or guidance, our Employment lawyers
can review your existing policies and can help you put new policies in place that protect both your employees and your business.