Muslims started fasting for the holy month of Ramadan on 23 March. The end of Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, is expected to happen on 22 April. Throughout the month, Muslims will fast from sunrise to sundown – as well as observe other rituals such as prayers, charity and Quran reflection.
As religion is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, employers should be aware that Muslim employees may have their work affected by fasting – and it is advisable to provide reasonable adjustments. According to a 2021 survey by Muslim Census, 65% of Muslims feel supported by their employers during Ramadan. However, it should be noted that employers are not obligated to provide these adjustments if they come with a justifiable refusal.
Nevertheless, supporting your employees who may be observing the month of Ramadan can be done in various ways. We have summarised them further below.
Flexible Working Arrangements
Muslim employees will have their working patterns shifted due to changing sleep cycles as they have to be awake before sunrise to have their Suhur meal prior to fasting, as well as staying up late for Taraweeh prayers at night. This can significantly affect productivity and work patterns, with many opting for temporary flexibility in working hours.
Employers could show support by agreeing to a flexible working arrangement, such as adjusting start and end times for Muslim employees to be earlier or holding important meetings at times that are more suitable. Additionally, work social events that are conducted during the day should not become mandatory to attend.
It is vital that these measures are in place to avoid Muslim employees being discriminated against for observing religious practices. However, it is also necessary that any arrangements made will accommodate both Muslim employees and employers to minimise delays and decline in work.
Additional Rest Breaks
Low levels of energy are expected in any fasting individual. Employers should be aware of this and consider more lenient approaches to breaks. The lack of consuming food and beverages throughout the day will have significant effects on concentration and productivity, especially in the early part of the month as many are still transitioning into a new routine.
Employers are advised to allow more rest breaks to employees who are fasting for Ramadan, as they may need to regroup and refresh more frequently. As they will not be having lunch, opting for more frequent shorter breaks can be an option. This way, Muslim employees will be able to have frequent refresher breaks as well as accommodate their daily prayers.
Increasing Awareness of Ramadan
There should be an open line of communication for employees who would like to consult with their employers on support for Ramadan. Respectful approaches can be made by employers, such as providing open discussions on the effects of Ramadan on productivity and health.
In the wider workplace, it would also be an excellent initiative to spread awareness of the month to all employees so that they can understand how their co-workers might be affected. Being sensible is important to not cause the feeling of discrimination or mistreatment for employees who are observing religious practices.