What should employers do to ensure that they give their employees who observe Ramadan the support that they require, and avoid discrimination?
What employers need to know about Ramadan
Ensure colleagues are aware what Ramadan entails
An employer, if they will have any staff observing Ramadan, may want to consider informing employees and make them aware what this actually means and entails. This will allow their colleagues to approach the subject with the required respect, and support their co-workers. Sensitivity is often appreciated when eating around colleagues who are fasting.
Consider requests to avoid working lunches
Due to the fact that Muslims observing Ramadan will be fasting from sunrise until sunset, you should give a reasonable amount of consideration to requests from employees not to attend working lunches, all day conferences and training events. Failure to give proper consideration to such requests may result in the employee claiming direct and indirect discrimination on religious grounds.
Reduced productivity levels
Employers should be careful in how they approach this. Due to the long hours of fasting with no food or water, employers may expect to see energy levels flagging and reduced productivity from staff, particularly towards the end of their shift. Managers should be careful not to discipline or penalise employees for this and should instead offer some give and take during this period.
Allow extra allowance for prayer during Ramadan
Muslims will often pray more during this period for a few minutes each time. Employers should ensure that employees, if requested, have somewhere private that they can go to pray, and employers and employees alike should respect this.
Consider Ramadan related holiday requests
Employers should be prepared to consider annual leave requests during the period of Ramadan, in particular, when they do not usually offer blocks beyond the two week period. Some Muslims prefer to use the majority of their entitlement during this time. The end of the Ramadan is celebrated for 3 days with the festival of Eid al-Fitr so employers may receive more requests for holidays during this time from Muslim workers. Whilst it may not be practical to grant every request during this time, employers should be supportive to staff of all religions, particularly non-Christians, due to the fact that most Christian holidays are marked by bank holidays in the UK and they are therefore often guaranteed time off.
Finally, employers may want to consider how they can offer support more generally during Ramadan. This may come in the form of being more flexible around working hours (often during summer Muslims will fast for 16 hours at a time so may wish to start and finish work earlier when their energy levels and productivity is higher). Employers may also wish to be more flexible in relation to work duties and break times during this period.