Five ways employers can help you if you are celebrating Ramadan

Kate Palmer from HR experts Peninsula gives some advice on how employers can support their Muslim employees during Ramadan.

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From 10th March until 9th April 2024, employees across the globe will be observing Ramadan. Ramadan is an Islamic religious holiday. And for Muslims who observe, it’s a time for prayer, reflection and community. During the course of the month, observing Muslims will be fasting. Meaning, they won’t be eating or drinking during daylight hours as an act of self-discipline.

Fasting, combined with late night and early morning prayers, will set normal routines off kilter. So, it’s likely that participating individuals will be feeling a lot less energetic and productive than usual. This might have a knock-on effect on their ability to work. And for observing employees who are also looking after children, it can be tough. So what can employers do to help you if you are observing Ramadan?

1. Be accommodating of annual leave requests

If you are staying up late to pray and then waking up before sunrise, a lack of sleep might make a normal working routine hard to maintain.

Anticipating this, you might request time off during the month to spend time with family, participate in religious activities, or just to catch up on much needed rest.

At the end of Ramadan, observing Muslims also celebrate Eid. This is a big festival in the Islamic community to mark the end of fasting. So, employers might see a number of holiday requests come in for around then.

Your employer should already have their own rules for managing holiday requests in the business. This might include a first-come first-serve rule. They might also require a minimum amount of notice so they can plan for absences and prevent staff shortages.

During Ramadan, as an observing employee you might need to request holidays last minute at times. As much as possible, employers should try to accommodate these requests.

This might mean relaxing certain annual leave caps if they need to. Of course, not having enough staff in work is a fair reason to refuse a request. But if leave isn’t possible, they should try to find an alternative where they can.

For example, they could…

2. Consider flexible working

It might work better for both you and your employer if your employer agrees for you to either work from home or change your hours temporarily. This can help you better manage work around your religious and family obligations.

Working at certain times of the day might become more of a challenge. And if you are working late nights, it’s important you have enough time to break your fast and set time aside for praying.

It might also be difficult for you to be in work while on a food and sleep deficit. Being around colleagues at lunchtime might make this even worse for some.

But if home working isn’t an option, employers could also consider allowing you:
 to choose when to take your breaks
 to change when you start and finish work
 to reduce your hours temporarily
 to share job responsibilities with a colleague

Changes like this can help you to strike a healthier balance between work and religious duties.

3. Be mindful of scheduling

It’s worth employers remembering that observing employees might feel better and more energised in the mornings. But the longer they go without food, the more they might struggle. So, being considerate of when they hold work meetings can be helpful.

They might want to schedule any meetings for first thing and avoid afternoon meetings where they
can. Perhaps they should avoid laying out the traditional free coffee and refreshments too…

4. Encourage open communication

Employers should never underestimate the power of a simple check-in.

Observing Ramadan is physically and mentally demanding. So, employers should take time to check in on their employees and make sure they have a safe space to talk about how they’re feeling and if they need anything from you to help them better manage their wellbeing while working.

It might be that you need more changes to your routine as the month goes on. Other times, you might just need a chat. Just knowing your employer is there to support you can go a long way, even if you say you don’t need anything.

If your employer has an employee assistance programme (EAP), make sure you know you can use this service too if you need any extra support.

5. Educating the workforce

On a final note, one of the best ways employers can help their employees is by raising awareness. When employees are taking part in religious celebrations, it’s good to have an understanding of what this means to them. That’s why it’s good for employers to actively encourage conversations between colleagues and share information across the team.

Making sure that other employees understand Ramadan can help them be more supportive towards you if you are observing and help to avoid them saying or doing anything that might cause upset or make things more difficult for you.

Emailing over resources to help staff understand Ramadan and how to support their colleagues will only reinforce how much employers prioritise their employees’ wellbeing. Plus, it will help underpin the importance of embracing different religious beliefs and cultures in the workplace.

There are lots of ways employers can support their employees in work this Ramadan. But if employers need any extra advice, they can get in touch with an HR and Health & Safety professional.

*Kate Palmer is HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula which provides HR and health & safety support for small businesses.


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