Britain is an increasingly multi-cultural and inclusive society, which means that as an employer you should consider how you can support employees in your organisation to honour their own religions and beliefs. It should also be kept in mind that as part of the Equality Act 2010 Religion and Beliefs are protected characteristics so proactively trying to introduce inclusion policies to your business is a good strategy.
Monday, 12th April 2021 is the beginning of Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic calendar. If you have a Religious Observance policy in place, as part of your inclusion strategy the likelihood is you will have considered the impact of this and made provision to support your Muslim employees to observe this important month. If, however, like a lot of businesses, you have not yet implemented such a policy you may want to start and think about what you can do now and, in the future, to offer support.
During Ramadan, Muslims employees may be fasting between sunrise and sunset. It is important to note that fasting includes food and drinks (including water) as well as anything else that passes the lips including smoking. Ramadan is a month of deep reflection with the fast being broken at sunset (Iftar) and additional prayers (taraweeh) being made. The end of Ramadan is marked with a celebration called Eid which lasts around 5 days.
As an employer, you need to reflect on how you can best support your Muslim employees during this time, being sensitive to their individual needs and accommodating this as much as possible. Things you might want to consider:
As with most elements of supporting people communication is key. Letting your employees know how you will support them and understanding what they need from you is important. As with anything, it is important to recognise that not all Muslims will need the same levels of support depending on what their own personal religious practice is. Open conversation will support this and enable you to have a conversation about what would be helpful to support them to continue to meet their job requirements. Line managers need to be open and approachable.
The term flexible working is often linked to the legal right to request this. When we talk about flexible working to our clients that is just one small part of it. Truly flexible workplaces offer flexibility as standard, and it may come in many different forms for different individuals. If you do not yet have a strong flexible working culture, think about how you can introduce this during periods like this and beyond.
During Ramadan, there is an increased physical demand linked to daytime fasting and a requirement for additional prayers. Some simple ideas around being flexible to support this could be alter shift patterns, move breaks, change working hours and offer flexibility. Remember that sunset is an important part of the day during this period so ensure your employees can take breaks at this time.
Given that the employee will not be eating, they may ask to work through their lunch and finish earlier, there is a consideration here to ensure that employees do take breaks for their mental health, discussing this with the individual to agree something that works for them is key. During this time, it might be helpful for an employee to start work earlier at sunrise to enable them to also finish earlier.
As with any flexible working approach, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and individuals may need different options, flexible working practices should enable this.
Employees may ask for additional time off during this period, particularly for Eid. You may also find that, due to the physical demands of Ramadan, employees need more rest time and request more time off. Wherever you can, accommodate this and be flexible.
Remember that employees who are fasting may need support to help them during this month. Listen to each individual and be sensitive to their needs. Think about things like tiredness as a result of fasting and be sensitive to this in how you schedule meetings and events. Discuss the work requirements for that month and agree together what needs to be in place to achieve those. Remember that productivity levels might change during this time, particularly towards the end of the day.
Also consider that Ramadan is mostly seen as a happy occasion and a celebration with family and friends especially around EID. In most cases individuals will be open to sharing recipes, meals and conversations with their colleagues. Consider how you can use Ramadan as a platform for greater team understanding and learning. Explore how everyone can support and learn. You could even throw a virtual Iftar one evening for the team.
As Ramadan starts also think about how you can continue to evolve your culture to be even more inclusive. Keep in mind that as we increasingly work globally and online and as we become more inclusive there are likely to be many other activities that could present opportunities to improve the inclusivity of your organisation and help build the engagement and performance of your teams e.g., Thanksgiving, Yom Kippur, Chinese New Year, Diwali.
If you have any questions or would like to look at how inclusive your culture is, please contact us to discuss this.