How to Support Your Muslim Employees During Ramadan

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Ramadan is a time for Muslims to connect deeper with their faith and come closer to Allah. As you can imagine, each person will uphold a variety of religious nuances and personal preferences during Ramadan.

Some, such as those who are experiencing poor physical or mental health and women who are menstruating, pregnant, or breastfeeding, can be exempt from fasting, though some in this category will still choose to fast.

The first step to supporting your Muslim employees during Ramadan is to initiate an open conversation to discuss their own personal preferences for the period. It is crucial that this conversation takes place in a safe, non-judgmental space.

As an employer, we recommend that you instigate this conversation as some employees may feel awkward or uncomfortable raising this – especially if the majority of the workforce is non-religious, or if they fear being misunderstood or judged.

During this conversation, we recommend asking how you can make their time at work during Ramadan easier. The additional support and reasonable adjustments you can make entirely depend on your industry, business, and your employee’s job role, but we recommend being open to providing adjustments where possible.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a holy month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the core practice of the religion, and allows dedicated time for Muslims to connect with their faith and their community.

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink (water too!), and other indulgencies from dawn to dusk each day. Fasting during daylight hours means Muslims can focus their attention on spiritual growth, appreciate their life comforts, and develop empathy for those less fortunate.

When is Ramadan?

The exact dates of Ramadan change every year because the Islamic calendar is lunar-based. This year, Ramadan began Sunday 10th March and will end around Tuesday 9th April, but the exact dates may vary depending on the sighting of the crescent moon.

Be Mindful of Your Employee’s Fast

One of the most important and impactful ways to support your Muslim employees is to be genuinely considerate and empathetic of their religious obligations and be mindful of their fast.

To show respect and solidarity during this period you should avoid revolving workplace incentives around food, drinks, or free lunches. Similarly, if you are running internal charity events, it would be more respectful to avoid events that revolve around food, such as bake sales. This ensures all employees can take part if they want to and no one is excluded.

Of course, it is still OK to eat and drink in front of fasting colleagues but you should refrain from making jokes or inappropriate comments (even if they are ‘light-hearted’) about fasting, as this could put Muslim employees in an awkward position. This could include:

  • You must be so hungry/thirsty
  • I won’t tell anyone if you have a bite/sip
  • I could never fast for so long

Fasting is a religious obligation which allows Muslims to connect deeper with their faith and come closer to Allah. While this requires a lot of mental strength, fasting offers a range of benefits, from increased empathy to self-discipline, so you should encourage your non-Muslim employees to support their Muslim co-workers and view this as a period of growth.

Offer Flexible Working Patterns

Fasting can increase fatigue and exhaustion, which can make it difficult to concentrate for long periods or perform tasks that typically require high energy levels. Additionally, many Muslims wake up pre-dawn for a meal (Suhoor) before the fast begins, which can disrupt their sleep schedule and make them feel tired during the working day.

Flexible working patterns are a great way to support your Muslim employees during Ramadan. Offering more flexibility allows your employees to better adjust their schedule to reflect their energy levels, meaning they are more likely to be productive during their working hours. This could involve earlier starts and finishes, compressed workweeks, or even remote work options.

Being flexible with working patterns during Ramadan shows you can understand the challenges of fasting and are committed to supporting your employee’s religious needs, and employees can fulfil their religious obligations without neglecting their work responsibilities.

Be Considerate with Late Annual Leave Requests 

Most businesses request 2 – 6 weeks’ notice for annual leave requests to manage staffing levels and allow time to distribute workloads. Of course, granting annual leave requests still needs to make business sense, and ideally, you should have an established system to handle requests fairly, for example, on a first come first served basis.

Since Ramadan and Eid follow the lunar calendar, their exact dates change yearly which can make booking annual leave in advance difficult. Once a date has been estimated you may receive an influx of annual leave requests, especially towards the last 10 days so employees can celebrate the end of Ramadan and spend Eid with their friends and family.

Eid marks the end of Ramadan fasting and is a time for celebration. Many Muslims will attend their mosque for Eid prayers, and spend quality time with their friends and family. Being flexible and considerate of late leave requests during this period means your employees can celebrate the festivities and come back happy and refreshed.

Final Thoughts

Everyone deserves to feel valued at work, and the most powerful way to show your employees respect is by supporting them and respecting their beliefs.

For your Muslim employees, it is crucial to show understanding and provide tailored support during religious periods, such as Ramadan. Putting additional support measures in place ensures they not only feel seen and accepted, but can truly immerse themselves in and enjoy the religious celebrations without additional work stress.

By creating an inclusive working environment where employees feel respected and supported for who they are, you’re not only doing the right thing (morally and legally!), but you’re also creating a more successful and positive workplace for everyone.