Ramadan During Lockdown

Hannah Williamson

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30 Apr 2020

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Last week saw the beginning of Ramadan. For those unfamiliar with it, Ramadan is the holy month of the Islamic calendar often involving a period of fasting during daylight hours.

At the same time, coronavirus continues to cause major issues across the UK. As a result of this combo, we’ve outlined five top tips below for supporting staff during this time:

Managing Ramadan

1. Communication

As with most matters, it’s important to have honest and open communication with staff likely to be affected. Especially if they’re working from home. Remember that individuals may initially be hesitant to approach senior figures. This is particularly true when these commitments could impact their performance. Line managers should remain approachable and understanding to the situation. Make sure they are available to contact via video calling during work hours.

2. Flexible working

Daytime fasting is often physically demanding. As a result, staff may require some adjustments to their working routine. These could include:

- altering shift patterns,

- allowing staff to start and finish earlier in the day

- amending workplace duties to reduce the chance of fatigue.

This will not only reduce the chance of fasting impacting performance, it will decrease the risk of injury. It's important to remember that the requirements may affect each person differently. Organisations should refrain from taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Remember that it will be more difficult to monitor staff who are working from home. In the absence of flexibility, employees may be less productive. That’s why, arguably, it's more important than ever that organisations take steps to accommodate personal circumstances.

3. Annual leave

Some individuals may wish to use their annual leave entitlement during Ramadan. This’ll allow them sufficient opportunity to rest during times of fasting, or to participate in the Eid celebrations that follow. It's fair to expect staff to request time off in the usual way and provide sufficient notice. However, given the circumstance, it may be wise to make an exception where possible to avoid discrimination. For example, where requests occur on short notice or clash with other team members.

It may be difficult for an organisation to accommodate annual leave requests as a result of the coronavirus. That said, given the importance of this to those who celebrate it, you should be as accommodating as possible.

If the full period requested cannot be permitted, could at least part of it be allowed? Would colleagues be in a position to handle increased workload? If not, does work distribution need to be reconsidered?

Harassment

Unfortunately, Muslim employees can be at increased risk of religious harassment at work during Ramadan. This can occur at the hands of third parties or their fellow colleagues. Other staff may believe that Muslim employees are receiving ‘special privileges’, for example. This is especially pertinent if you manage annual leave poorly. Ensure your annual leave procedures are fair and work to dispel any notion of ‘special privilege’.

Remind staff that you will take appropriate action against anyone found responsible for offensive behaviour. 'Workplace banter’ will not be accepted as a legitimate excuse for discrimination.

Policy

Given the importance of Ramadan to Muslim employees it would be advisable to outline the organisation’s approach in a religious observance policy. This will give individuals a clear source of information on their rights at work. This policy will need to be inclusive. Give equal footing to other religions, in order to avoid further claims of religious discrimination.

Expert support

If you want further information regarding leave & absence or equality & discrimination, or want to know how to better accommodate employees during Ramadan, speak to an expert on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Hannah Williamson is a CIPD Qualified HR professional with over 10 years’ experience in generalist HR management working within the Manufacturing Industry.

Working for a Global manufacturer provided Hannah with the opportunity to work in America and across Europe supporting HR functions and the wider business.

Hannah is Croner’s Advice Manager, taking responsibility for overseeing the provision of advice to all Croner clients, bringing together our Corporate, Simplify and Association service provisions.

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