The beginning of Ramadan is an ideal time to remind employers of the importance of supporting Muslim staff who are observing the Islamic holy month. We round up five points for employers to remember during Ramadan.
Many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. They may also wish to spend time in prayer, engage in charitable activities, and spend time with family and friends to celebrate.
During this time, many Muslims are faced with the challenge of balancing their religious commitments with work. To be an inclusive employer, it is important that HR, line managers and colleagues accommodate employees who are observing Ramadan.
In 2023, Ramadan begins on Wednesday 22 March and ends on Friday 21 April. There is a festival (Eid al-Fitr) to mark the end of Ramadan when Muslims break their daylight fasting.
1. Encourage employees to be open about their religious observance
Employees who are fasting will usually attend work as normal but can be encouraged to tell their employer that they are fasting. This should be done in a sensitive manner – line managers and colleagues should not pry as some staff will be uncomfortable sharing the details of their religious beliefs.
22 March – 05:59/18:16
21 April – 05:52/20:06
22 March – 06:11/18:28
21 April – 06:05/20:18
22 March – 06:10/18:29
21 April – 05:53/20:31
22 March – 06:21/18:40
21 April – 06:08/20:38
However, employers should not assume that all employees want to be treated differently because they are fasting. Indeed, not all individuals observing Ramadan will actually be fasting – for example, there are exceptions for people with health conditions, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
To strike a balance, employers could put a message on their intranet about the fasting period, with an invitation to employees to make their needs during Ramadan known.
In addition, employers could consult with employee faith networks and external religious bodies before deciding whether to change any working practices.
- Good practice guide on creating an inclusive workplace around religion: general principles of inclusive practice
2. Educate line managers and colleagues about Ramadan
Employers can raise awareness of key religious events, including Ramadan, by having a calendar of the key religious days and festivals on their intranet.
For example, publicising the dates of Ramadan and explaining about fasting can enable employees to be sensitive to the needs of colleagues who may be observing the fast. This can also help managers to anticipate requests for annual leave.
There are simple steps that everyone can take to support individuals during Ramadan observance, including:
- avoiding placing additional burdens on them while they are fasting, for example not asking them to do overtime;
- being considerate by not offering food or drink to them;
- avoiding having work events that involve food, such as working lunches and team meetings where biscuits or food spreads are placed in front of them; and
- avoiding scheduling important meetings, such as performance appraisals, late in the day when their energy levels may be low.
- Good practice guide on creating an inclusive workplace around religion: fasting
- Good practice guide on creating an inclusive workplace around religion: prayer
3. Be flexible with working patterns
One of the most helpful things that an employer can do for employees observing Ramadan is to allow them to adjust their working patterns.
Employers should remember that an employee may be getting up earlier than usual to have a meal before sunrise and staying up late for evening prayers. These factors, and the fact that the employee is not eating during daylight hours, can lead to fatigue and drops in concentration.
Employers could put in place temporary arrangements during Ramadan to allow employees to:
- start work earlier than usual so that they can leave the workplace earlier; and
- be flexible with their lunchbreak, for example by shortening it or taking it earlier or later in the day.
However, employers should ensure that such temporary arrangements are not seen by others as allowing the employee to reduce their working hours.
In addition, employers need to be careful that any temporary arrangements are not in breach of working time legislation. In particular, remember that, where an adult worker’s daily working time is more than six hours, they are entitled to a rest break of at least 20 minutes (30 minutes for young workers).
- Model policy on requesting flexible working
- Model letter agreeing to employee’s flexible working request
- Line manager briefing on managing hybrid/flexible workers
4. Embrace the advantages of hybrid working
The pandemic has meant that many employers have introduced hybrid working for most or all of their staff. Employers that have moved to the hybrid working model can use this way of working to support employees who are observing Ramadan.
For example, the employer could temporarily amend the ratio of time spent attending the workplace compared with time working remotely, allowing fasting employees to spend more time working at home during Ramadan.
Line managers who are organising meetings on a particular day should think about whether it is possible for the employee to work from home and join the meeting remotely. For example, is the employee being asked to commute to the office during Ramadan to attend one in-person meeting that they could just as easily participate in remotely?
Embracing hybrid working during Ramadan as a way to reduce commuting, which can be draining for an employee who is fasting, is a good way for employers to show their support.
Ramadan in the workplace FAQs
5. Accommodate annual leave requests where possible
Employers should bear in mind that they may see an increase in holiday requests from Muslims during Ramadan, particularly during the festival to mark the end of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr).
The Easter break, combined with Ramadan, mean that employers may see an increase in the number of employees requesting time off for both religious and non-religious reasons in March and April.
While there is no automatic right to time off for religious reasons, line managers should be sensitive to the needs of employees who are observing religious events, including Ramadan.
To reduce the risk of discrimination, line managers should be encouraged to take a consistent approach to requests for time off and refuse requests only where they have a legitimate business reason. Line managers should always fully explain the reason for a holiday request refusal to the employee in a considerate way.
Employers’ holiday policies should be supportive towards employees who observe religions other than Christianity, particularly given that the majority of Christian holidays are provided for in the UK as bank holidays.
- Model religious holidays policy
- Model letter declining holiday request
- Can an employer refuse holiday requests during a particular period?
Did you know?
Islam is not the only religion that involves fasting for a particular period every year or on certain occasions. Employers should be prepared to provide support to followers of other religions who are observing fasting. These religions include:
- Baha’i faith: Baha’is fast for a significant portion of March (a 19-day period)
- Christianity: Some Christians fast during Lent, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
- Hinduism: Some Hindus observe fasting during various religious festivals, such as Navaratri (in the autumn each year)
- Judaism: Some Jewish religious festivals involve fasting, the best known of which is Yom Kippur
- Mormonism: Church members are encouraged to fast on one Sunday each month.