Accommodating Ramadan in the Workplace

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15 May 2018

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Ramadan is the Islamic holy month of fasting, next beginning on 15 May, and is observed by Muslims across the country. All religious observances have the potential to cause some disruption in the workplace, and Ramadan is no different. If an employee is fasting, it is possible that their productivity will drop.

Croner have put together a few tips on how to accommodate those observing Ramadan, whilst looking after the health & safety of employees.

Health & Safety

Workers observing Ramadan will not drink water throughout the day, and therefore may become dehydrated. It is particularly important to keep a check on employees who work in hazardous or physically demanding roles, as this will increase their chance of becoming dehydrated and potentially put themselves and others at risk. Conducting a short risk assessment with the affected employees, and discussing how they can relieve the physical pressure of their roles, shows that you are on the ball and may prevent accidents. A quick review of your own specific health & safety guidelines will also help highlight any areas where employees’ wellbeing might be at risk.

Environment

Every workplace environment is different; however all should be tolerant of religious observance and holidays. Familiarise yourself with your policy on religious observance, and update it if necessary to accommodate. Acceptance of one religious holiday but denial of another will likely amount to religious discrimination. Posting information on Ramadan on staff notice boards or newsletters will help raise awareness, particularly for those unfamiliar with Islam and with what the month entails. This helps reduce misconceptions and the chance for unintended offence being caused. Taking into consideration that employees will not be eating, it is important to be sensitive and accommodating regarding food consumption. Avoid arranging meetings where employees will be required to eat/drink, and understand that invitations to social gatherings may be refused. Finally, fasting may have an effect on the employee’s demeanour, for example they may be lethargic, or slightly irritable. Some understanding from managers and colleagues can be helpful during this time. Managers should make allowances for employees who aren’t as productive and only raise an issue if productivity is slipping significantly. The effects of fasting will likely be felt most strongly in the afternoon, so if there is any intense, intellectually or physically demanding work, schedule this in the morning.

Flexible Working / Leave

If you have several Muslim employees, it is possible you may experience a high demand for annual leave during this time. The end of Ramadan in particular, Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of the fasting period and is a widely celebrated religious holiday. Whilst it may not be practical for all holidays to be granted during this time, employers should be as supportive and understanding as possible. Consider the fact that the majority of Christian holidays are provided for as UK bank holidays and so time off is not needed for these. Flexible working, if possible for your business, can also be a great help for employees observing Ramadan. Allowing staff to start work an hour or two early means that they will not be drained of energy, due to fasting, late in the afternoon. Alternatively, allowing them to start work later in the day will mean they can catch up on sleep. For some businesses flexible working is not possible, but in every case it is important to be understanding of your employees’ needs.

Expert Advice

For assistance with employee matters, including flexible working, annual leave, religious observance, disciplinaries and grievances and much more, contact Croner on 0808 145 3003

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