In Islamic tradition Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, when the first verses of the Koran/Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Observing Ramadan is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.

This year, Ramadan is expected to run from 5 May to 4 June.

What do people do during Ramadan?

Many Muslims will fast each day from sunrise to sunset. This includes not eating food, drinking liquids or smoking. It is common to have one meal known as the suhoor just before sunrise and an evening meal known as Iftar after sunset.

Ramadan is a time of prayer and self-reflection, where Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur’an. It is also a time for charity-giving, which can involve both making donations and participating in charitable events.

What can employers (and employees) do?

  • Observing Ramadan may be noticeable (for example not eating at lunchtime) and so it may be sensible for workers to inform their managers of the fact they are fasting.
  • Fasting affects people in different ways (for example some people may understandably become a little irritable or slightly tired at times). Managers and colleagues should show understanding.
  • Consider planning work at different times of the day – the effects of fasting may be more pronounced in the afternoon. Consider holding meetings and intellectually challenging work in the morning and have routine tasks later in the day.
  • Although breaks should be kept, a shorter lunch may make it easier for an employee to manage their workload if they wish to take time off to carry out additional prayer or worship.
  • Colleagues may want to avoid offering food and drink to those who fast if sharing food with other colleagues, or eating during meetings.
  • It can be helpful to avoid events etc that ALL staff must attend during Ramadan as people may be fasting.
  • Some employees will want to use annual leave to observe Ramadan. Try to plan annual leave if it can be accommodated.
  • Awareness and understanding of Ramadan and other religious festivals can be aided by posting information on staff notice boards or newsletters etc.
  • Consider flexible working opportunities with staff: altering shift patterns in order to manage any fatigue or drop in productivity that may occur as a result of daytime fasting.

What can go wrong?

Discrimination may increase during this period of religious observance and all employees should be warned that offensive “banter” is unacceptable and could potentially lead to disciplinary action.

Having a workplace policy on religious observance is a great way of setting out your stance on supporting employees and detailing which workplace rules are in place during Ramadan and other religious events.

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