Top 10 Tips for Supporting Staff During Ramadan
This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on Thursday 23 March 2023 and end on Friday 21 April 2023. During this time, millions of healthy Muslims throughout the world (including celebrities, sportspeople and politicians, such as Zayn Malik, Paul Pogba and the Mayor of London, Sadik Khan) will abstain from food or water from sunrise to sunset every day for a period of 30 days. This can present a major challenge for those Muslims who plan to continue working throughout this holy month. Fasting (and altered sleep patterns) will inevitably have an effect on productivity and concentration levels, with some individuals suffering fatigue. Whilst some may seek to take time off, many are likely to continue working.
A willingness, on the part of employers, to be flexible and make allowances is key and it is likely to be well received and helpful. For example, last year Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp altered the team schedule so that training sessions took place in the morning, giving Muslim players who were observing Ramadan (like Sadio Mane and Mo Salah) time to rest and go home, enabling them to continue playing in major Premier League games during the month of Ramadan.
Here, we provide our top 10 tips to help you support your staff who will be balancing their religious commitments with work during this festival.
- Consider varying start and finish times (because fasting staff may feel tired and less productive towards the end of the normal working day).
- Forego lunch breaks for an earlier finish (although you should ensure that you comply with the Working Time Regulations 1998 which requires staff to have a break of at least 20 minutes during any period of work lasting at least six hours.)
- Allow breaks to be split into smaller ones or provide additional breaks for rest and / or prayer. Be fair and considerate in the distribution of additional rest breaks and extend this option to others to avoid the risk of discrimination claims from those members of staff not observing Ramadan.
- Provide a quiet space for prayer.
- Arrange meetings (including job interviews for job applicants) for earlier in the day when concentration and energy levels may be higher.
- Avoid scheduling lunchtime events (including business / team lunches), evening meetings or work events.
- Avoid placing additional burdens on staff while they are fasting, for example, requiring them to do overtime or stay late.
- Allow some time off (potentially at quite short notice). The festival of Eid ul Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan and is when Muslims break their daylight fast. Mosques hold special services, followed by a two or three day holiday in which families and friends spend time together, exchange gifts and socialise. It is not always possible to precisely predict when Eid will start, meaning that staff may request time off at short notice.
- Allow staff to work from home or change their working pattern. Temporarily amend duties or working practices (which could be particularly helpful where work is physically demanding or staff work shifts). For those who are on shift at sunset, make special allowances to enable them to break their fast, pray and eat properly.
- Consider making allowances for any downturn in performance encountered during this period.
Not all businesses will be able to accommodate requests for flexible working hours or holiday. Employers are not obliged to grant such requests from those observing Ramadan, as long as they can legitimately justify their refusal. If faced with such a situation, it is advisable to take legal advice to ensure that any response is fair, reasonable and can be justified.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this blog, please contact Lesley Grant, Associate, or any other member of the BTO employment team.
This update contains general information only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.