Today marks the beginning of Ramadan – a month-long period of fasting, prayer, and reflection observed by millions of Muslims around the world. This will see many Muslim people adjusting their schedules to accommodate to the demands of their religious practices.
There are just shy of four million Muslims in the UK, and so it is very likely that as an employer, you may have employees who will be observing Ramadan. This means that between the hours of sunrise and sunset, those partaking must go without any food and drink (including water). In the UK this year, that can be for as long as 17 hours, and up to 16 hours in the US.
So, what can employers be doing to support their Muslim employees during this time?
- Accommodate flexible working hours – This is probably the most important thing an employer can do during Ramadan. Long periods of time without any sustenance can result in low-energy levels, and so allowing these employees to start and finish work earlier or later than usual can help ensure they can successfully distribute their energy and remain productive (for example, the United Arab Emirates recently announced a reduction of two working hours per day for all employees in the private sector during the holy month). Even offering more remote working hours (if applicable) can be beneficial, as it is easier to be comfortable and retains energy that would be used travelling to and from the office.
- Show support and understanding – making adaptions to the workplace and workday are a great signifier of inclusivity, but many Muslim employees would also greatly appreciate team members who recognize the significance of Ramadan to them. Showing support in little ways goes a long way, and will make those employees feel included on a cultural level too.
- Be mindful of scheduling – It wouldn’t be surprising to hear that, during this period, employees who have been fasting all day become very tired and hungry as the day goes on. In order to be mindful of this, managers and colleagues can aim to schedule any meetings and events in the earlier hours of the workday, and avoid afternoon/evening exchanges where Muslim employees will likely have less energy.
- Provide a private space for prayer – Prayer is a fundamental part of Ramadan, and those observing are required to pray five times a day. Therefore, it is important for organizations to provide a private space for their Muslim employees to pray, such as a conference room or any other quiet area that is not being used.
Employers who are able to successfully demonstrate support to their Muslim employees during this time will be providing an inclusive workplace and promoting the likelihood of retention of these staff members. A recent study found that 56% of Muslims who saw their place of work as supportive during Ramadan were likely to remain working there for the next 5 years.