22% of the world’s population – around 1.6 billion people – are celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan right now.
In 2019, Ramadan begins on 5 May and will end on 4 June, culminating in the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr.
During this period, many Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset and observe religious practices; they will not eat food, drink liquids or smoke during the day. They may also adhere to the prayer times more stringently during working hours.
If you have any workers observing Ramadan, here are some helpful tips to support them through it.
Having a policy on all religious observance during working hours should have a positive impact on employees whilst not adversely affecting your business.
In Ramadan, this may mean being flexible with working hours and working from home on certain days.
Perhaps allow workers who are fasting to start and finish work earlier so that they can be home in time to break the fast, or to take a reduced lunch break within legal stipulations and leave early.
Or equally, let them start and finish later if they are up late at religious gatherings.
It’s also important your policy on religious observance applies to all religions otherwise it will be deemed discriminatory.
Finally, ensure that all your managers are familiar with the policy and how it might affect members of their teams.
If you have people observing Ramadan in your office, ask them how you can support them. Managers can talk to their teams, or send an email out asking workers to be considerate of those fasting and explaining to them what it is and what it entails.
Of course, don’t assume that just because an employee is Muslim that they are observing Ramadan at all.
However, if they are, don’t isolate them or assume that they don’t want to be included in office gatherings. They might not be able to eat, but you can give them a cup cake to take home with them for when they break their fast for example.
Don’t feel like you must tip toe around them with food, but don’t force them to go to conferences or social events that involve a lot of food if they don’t really need to be there. The key here is to be open with your team and ensure that they are well informed and understand.
Show compassion and understanding to workers whose productivity might lag especially at the end of the day when fasting.
Consider helping them manage their workload to do the most important tasks in the morning, try to arrange meetings in the earlier part of the day if possible, and don’t make them attend meetings that they don’t really need to be at.
Be tolerant – in the UK case of Bhatti and another v Pontiac Coils Europe Limited, an employment tribunal held that critical comments made to an employee about her reduced productivity due to fasting amounted to religious discrimination and harassment.
In many countries Christian holidays are a public holiday but it’s not the same for other religions. Muslims in your organization may request some time off at the end of Ramadan for Eid Al-Fitr, which is celebrated for three days.
Assess how much time you can give off. Some people might request more days off to travel to be with family at this time. If you can only give them one day off for Eid itself, then consider letting them work from home in the days leading up to it.
During Ramadan, those fasting may also be more observant of prayer times especially Friday prayers.
Consider giving them short breaks to either go to a local mosque (if there is one nearby) or a quiet space in the office to pray. If you don’t have a quiet space, consider creating one for the duration of Ramadan.
You may even consider creating a more permanent space or multi faith prayer room, but be sure to consult all of your workers first to ensure that they would use it too.
Ensure that your policy on religious observance is flexible enough to encompass all religions but also be mindful of indirect discrimination in your work practices.
Whilst showing some consideration to a religious group during holy days and festivals can be beneficial, it is also important not to disproportionately favor that group to the disadvantage of colleagues with different (or no) religious beliefs.
A good People Company will understand what their workers needs are, whether they are religious or not, and ensure that they are flexible enough to keep good workers engaged and stimulated whilst balancing the needs of the business.
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