Supporting Colleagues during Ramadan

With the start of Ramadan, many Muslims will be taking part in religious practices and fasting from sunrise to sunset each day for one lunar month, based on sighting of the moon (for 2022 most likely 2 April to 01 May).

People professionals, HR practitioners, line managers and employers can take this opportunity to show understanding and, where possible, accommodate particular needs to help ensure that people can continue to perform to the best of their abilities.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is an act of worship where one refrains from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. This year the fasting day will be approximately fifteen hours. However, Ramadan is so much more than not eating; it is also a time of reflection, discipline, abstaining from bad habits, extra prayers, charity, acts of kindness and connection with family and community.
This is why Ramadan is a really exciting time for Muslims. Research has indicated that more Muslims actively fast in Ramadan than pray or observe their religion throughout the year.

However, not all Muslim choose to fast, or cannot fast for a variety of reasons including health, pregnancy and old age, however they can still get involved in the charity, spiritual and community aspect of the month. No one is excluded, and it’s a very inclusive experience.

The last ten days of Ramadan are especially significant, as there is a special night within this time period when the Qur’an (Muslim Holy book) was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, Muslims will perform extra prayers during these ten days, and sometimes they even choose to enter a period of spiritual seclusion.

Ramadan is about resetting the normal rhythm and slowing things down, so there is time to focus on the spiritual core. Muslims will try and adapt to the pace; making time for extra prayers and many try to read the whole Qur’an over Ramadan. When the month is over, there is sense of sadness because of all the benefits and blessing that Ramadan brings. The end of the fasting period is marked by a massive community festival known as Eid-ul-Fitr. Traditionally, Eid is celebrated for three days and in Muslim countries these days are a public holiday.

In order to create an inclusive workplace that values, respects and celebrates diversity, an understanding of Ramadan is key to supporting colleagues through the fasting period. Below are some simple ideas that can help create an atmosphere of belonging and mutual respect:

1. Supporting the physical side-effects of fasting:
During Ramadan Muslim colleagues are likely to be fasting during daylight hours. As a result, towards the end of the day their concentration and productivity is likely to be lower than normal.

For those who have to work during Ramadan the physical effects can be challenging, and additional steps can be taken to ensure that colleagues are supported during this period:

  • Avoid arranging any meetings/events that would normally involve food or beverages (e.g. breakfast briefings)
  • Schedule meetings/training sessions/events earlier in the day/morning
  • Be mindful of the impact that fasting might have on your colleague as the day progresses
  • Depending on the role and business requirements, it might be possible to amend workplace duties to help reduce physical strain and fatigue

2. Flexible work options
Colleagues practicing daytime fasting may require some adjustments to be made to their working routine. With the impact of Covid-19 a lot of organisations may already have in place flexible and remote working options. Fasting colleagues may find it easier to work from home completely during this time.

Other considerations might involve accommodating:

  • different start and finish times to the working day
  • a staggered/flexible working day
  • a different daily routine during this time
  • a break at sunset to enable staff to break their fast (if applicable)

3. Annual leave
There are no public holiday days in Ireland for days relating to Ramadan. Employees may wish to take some time off during this month and to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. Employees may wish to take some time off at short notice, the same time as other employees or during a busy time within the business.

It may not be possible to accommodate everyone due to the needs of the organisation, but employers should act reasonably and have a fair system in place for granting leave requests.

And remember…

4. Good communication is key!
All tips in this article are very general suggestions. Individual’s needs and requirements will differ and as with most matters, having an open and honest line of communication with employees is key.
It is very important to have a culture where employees feel safe to approach their line managers/senior management to discuss their own circumstances, the potential impact to their performance and what additional considerations (if any) that they might require.

From CIPD Ireland we wish all of our Muslim colleagues a happy, blessed and successful Ramadan!

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