Guest Blog by Paul Holcroft, Associate Director at Croner
Ramadan is set to start the first week of May but how exactly do staff cope with a month of fasting? It can’t be easy to go without food and drink in offices where staff routinely eat their lunch at their desks and make copious amounts of tea and coffee.
It is only natural that organisations with Muslim employees will be concerned about how to support staff during this time, below are several key tips to consider:
Encouraging open and honest communication is always advised from a business perspective and this will be especially important when it involves staff who stand to be affected by commitments during Ramadan. It is important to remember that employees may initially feel reluctant to approach senior figures about how these commitments could impact their performance and line managers should remain approachable and understanding of each individual’s situation.
- Flexible working
Keep in mind that individuals may also require some adjustments to be made to their working routine to help them meet their commitments during Ramadan. Common examples could include altering shifts patterns so employees can start and finish earlier in the day to facilitate daytime fasting, or amending workplace duties to avoid any instances where added fatigue may put individuals at risk of injury. These changes could be introduced with an informal agreement, or through the use on an official flexible working request.
- Annual Leave
Some staff may wish to take annual leave during Ramadan to allow them sufficient opportunity to rest during times of fasting, or to take part in the Eid celebrations that follow. It will be fair to expect individuals to request time off in the usual way and provide adequate notice. However, where requests clash with other team members it will be advisable to work towards an amicable solution, rather than dismiss them entirely, to avoid claims of discrimination.
- Working environment
It is important that the workplace remains inclusive for staff during Ramadan and it may be unreasonable to expect employees to attend business lunches or team meals whilst they are taking part in religious fasting. Additionally, you should think about how excessive workplace temperatures could increase the sense of fatigue amongst certain staff and take appropriate measures to maintain a comfortable working environment.
You should also consider that Muslim employees might be at an increased risk of suffering from religious harassment at work during Ramadan. Therefore, as a deterrent, you should consider reminding colleagues that appropriate action will be taken against anyone found responsible for offensive behaviour and that ‘workplace banter’ will not be accepted as a legitimate excuse for discrimination.
Finally, given the importance of Ramadan to Muslim employees, it would be advisable to outline your approach in a religious observance policy, giving individuals a clear source of information on their rights at work during this time. Having said this, any policy will need to be inclusive, giving equal footing to other religions, in order to avoid further claims of religious discrimination