Ramadan is a holy month observed by Muslims across the globe. It is marked by a period of fasting and religious focus, and this year it begins on 15 May 2018 – the start date is determined by the sighting of the new moon (Loulla-Mae Eleftherious-Smith, 2017). The date is dictated by the lunar calendar and so starts around 11 days earlier each year. Ramadan will occur over spring/summer for the next few years with longer daylight hours, meaning the impact on Muslims will be greater as they could be fasting for up to 16 hours a day.
Ramadan marks the month that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed and Muslims fast during daylight hours and share a meal, ‘iftar’, with friends after sunset. Muslims refrain from food, water, smoking and sexual activity during daylight and focus on prayer and reading the Quran, generosity and giving is encouraged as well as being a period of reflection and patience which is intended to bring them closer to Allah. Ramadan is due to end on the evening of 14 June 2018, where a three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr begins.
Ramadan in the Workplace
Muslims, along with other religions are protected under the Equality Act 2010 which prohibits unlawful discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. Discrimination could occur where you may have made allowances for Christian employees to observe Easter festivities but not allowed Muslims to observe Ramadan. Performance may drop for Muslim employees who are fasting as they may have reduced energy and concentration which you need to consider before starting a formal process around any performance concern.
What can you do to support your employees?
- Make allowances for any downturn in performance during the period if the employee is observing Ramadan and fasting.
- Consider granting temporary flexible working arrangements, such as reduced hours, earlier start and finish times, reduced lunch breaks or home working.
- Schedule meetings, training or important tasks to take place in the morning.
- Allow short and regular breaks during the working day.
- Create an environment in which people can openly discuss Ramadan and religious observances with colleagues and line managers.
- Set aside a quiet space or temporary prayer room.
Annual Leave Requests during Ramadan
You may receive more requests for annual leave during this time, especially at the end during the festival. This may cause operational issues should you grant all of the requests. Make sure you have a solid holiday policy which is fair to everyone. Muslim employees may have booked rough dates off to observe Eid al-Fitr and will need to confirm the exact dates nearer the time, which you should look to accommodate.