22 May 2017
This year, Ramadan starts on Saturday 27 May, and runs through until Saturday 24 June. If you’re an employer and you’ve employees participating in Ramadan, we’d certainly recommend clueing yourself up on it (if you haven’t done so already).
A brief overview
During Ramadan, all Muslims (excluding those who’re sick, travelling, old, young (pre-puberty), pregnant or breast-feeding) fast from dusk until dawn – 4am to 9.30pm.
As well as refraining from food and drink, Muslims also stay clear of cursing, thinking evil thoughts, swearing and using improper language.
Things to be aware of
Because Muslims fast during daylight hours, there’s a very good chance their sleeping patterns may be disrupted. As a result, they may come to work more tired than usual. If this is the case, be sensitive and try to accommodate any increased levels of exhaustion.
The absence of food and drink throughout the day will inevitably take its toll on participating Muslims, and could cause their blood sugar levels to dip. This could have a knock-on effect on concentration and alertness. Again, this is something to be considerate of and, if and where possible, show leniency on.
Health & Safety
It’s important to consider the Health & Safety implications tiredness and reduced concentration might have. If an employee drives as part of their role, does shift work or has a manual job, e.g. using machinery, where a dip in awareness could put themselves and others in danger, you must address this.
You should conduct a short risk assessment and put additional measures in place, if necessary. If you feel the job would be too dangerous, you could suggest the employee takes annual or unpaid leave for some or part of the day. Remember though, forcing an employee to take leave in these circumstances if they don’t want to is likely to be unlawful.
During Ramadan, some Muslims may wish to practice their faith more frequently. Be prepared for and open to individuals requesting flexibility or some time out during the working day to offer a prayer.
If this genuinely isn’t logistically possible, don’t be afraid to say no – providing you have a clear and identifiable business reason, you’re within your rights to do so.
How you can help
Don’t assume an employee isn’t Muslim just because they don’t look a certain way. Muslims come in all shapes and sizes, and from various backgrounds and cultures. Conversely, don’t assume an individual is taking part in Ramadan because they do look a certain way.
Consider whether you need to raise awareness of Ramadan within your business. This’ll show you support it and will ensure all employees are aware and therefore accommodating of it. However, it is generally better to do so in a more ‘low-key’ manner, as employees may not be comfortable with too much attention being drawn to themselves or feeling singled out.
Although it might not be ideal, try to show leniency with regards to working hours. Some individuals might request to start earlier or work through their lunch hour to finish earlier – if you can temporarily accommodate this, do.
Again, as we touched on earlier, don’t be afraid to say no if it genuinely isn’t practicable for the running of your business.
If possible, try to hold off organising team meals or extra activities during Ramadan. If it’s unavoidable, don’t be offended if an individual participating in Ramadan declines.
Avoiding discrimination claims
It’s unlawful to treat any employee less favourably because of their religion. However, this doesn’t mean you’re obliged to make every allowance during Ramadan.
You should try to accommodate any requests made within reason, but don’t be afraid to turn some down it they’re just not practicable to your business. Providing you can prove you’ve genuinely considered an employee’s request and tried to accommodate it as best you can, you should be able to defend any claims.
For peace of mind, it might be worth keeping written records of such requests and discussions.
If you’ve any questions regarding Ramadan and your workforce, our experienced advisors are on hand to help. You can get in touch by giving us a call or contacting us online.
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