With Ramadan starting in the second week of June this year, it is worth looking into what this means for the workplace that has a fasting employee. In the first of a couple of posts throughout the month, we’ll look at Ramadan from the perspective of both employers and employees.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is the month in which able-bodied adult Muslims fast. With it being part of a lunar calendar, the dates of Ramadan move forward each year by around 11 days and the month itself lasts for either 29 or 30 days. Ramadan serves as a chance for reflection and self-purification with a renewed emphasis on spirituality. It garners a sense of compassion for the needy and from an Islamic perspective, seeks to bring a believer closer to God.
Aside from the physical health benefits of fasting, the primary practical benefit is the annual lesson in self-restraint and discipline. These are traits that Muslims should implement throughout the year in other aspects of their daily lives such as education and work.
Managing or working with staff who are fasting
Fasting in the summer can lead to disturbed sleep patterns which can cause individuals to feel more tired than normal especially towards the end of the working day. It may be worth considering shorter lunch breaks or temporary flexible working arrangements during the month to allow for an early finish.
Despite some common misconceptions, Muslims are not offended by non-fasting individuals eating or drinking in their presence. This is worth considering especially in workplaces where it is regular practice to have lunch at one’s desk. It is very considerate to avoid staff meals or away days during Ramadan and if it cannot be avoided, do not be concerned if Muslim employees are unable to take part in such events. It would not be appropriate to expect a fasting employee to participate in a business lunch or a business meal with a client.
Many Muslims will try to practise their faith more during Ramadan than they may do during other parts of the year. Therefore, it is likely that Muslim staff may wish to offer their afternoon prayer during the latter part of day. The prayer, one of the five-a-day, only lasts a few minutes and the staff member will require a small quiet area in which to offer the prayer.
Eid is the festival that marks the end of Ramadan for which some Muslim employees may wish to take annual leave. As the actual day on which Eid falls is determined by the sighting of the new moon (possibly on the night before), it may not be possible for the employee to be specific about the day he/she would like to be away from work. It is possible that employees may request 2 days of annual leave to cover the 2 possible dates but only end up taking the actual day Eid falls upon, therefore some flexibility may be required.
If you have any employees who are fasting during Ramadan and you require further information and advice on how to support them during this month feel free to contact us on 0131 225 7458 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
An excellent guide to the working Muslim in Ramadan has been produced by Working Muslim which can be accessed here and from which information has been summarised in this blog.