What is Ramadhan?
Ramadhan is a holy month for Muslims, which this year started between the 23rd or 24th March depending on where you are in the world. As the most important month in the Muslim calendar, Muslims fast during daylight hours for 30 days. This means they do not eat or drink anything, including water.
The fast is spiritual, mental as well as physical. Bad thoughts, lying, swearing and other such undesired actions are avoided. Muslims make more of an effort to pray, including an extra evening prayer that only takes place during the month.
According to Islam, all adults/those who have passed puberty must fast on each of the days of Ramadhan. There are some exceptions, such as people who are too unwell, menstruating, pregnant or travelling certain distances.
Those fasting usually have a late night/early morning meal called the Suhoor meal just before dawn. Slow energy releasing foods such as porridge, dates and fruit are consumed to last the day, until Iftar. This is at sunset when Muslims all around the world break their fasts, usually with dates and water before having a more substantial meal.
The effects of fasting while at work:
Muslims follow the Lunar rather than the Georgian calendar; hence the start date of Ramadhan changes each year. The last ten years or so has seen Ramadhan fall in the Summer months which have made it more difficult for those who work outdoors in jobs such as farming and construction.
However, it has now started to fall when the weather is cooler. The fast still lasts around 16 to 17 hours though, which means it can cause issues such as fatigue and dehydration. In order to overcome this and support staff, employers should consult with their staff to see if any changes may be required.
How to accommodate Ramadhan in the workplace:
Employers, for example, can allow staff to swap shifts or change their start/finish times temporarily. Starting work a little later and finishing work later is ideal for some, whereas others may prefer to start earlier and go home a little earlier.
With those working on construction sites or other physically demanding roles, extra breaks for staff who fasting should be considered.
Be flexible with working patterns:
There may be more requests for holidays both during and just after the month of Ramadhan, particularly for Eid ul Fitr – the day to celebrate the end of Ramadhan. Employers should try as much as possible to grant holiday requests as this engenders goodwill and fosters a positive working relationship.
Given the current prominence of home working where many people now work partly or fully remote, the need for separate areas to pray may not arise as workers are at home. Where staff are at the workplace, a separate, clean, indoor area for prayer is a helpful consideration.
If someone is fasting, they will have more energy during the morning rather than the afternoon, so important meetings could be scheduled in the morning to accommodate this.
Questions about fasting, and the affects, need to be treated with privacy.
If the topic of Ramadhan or another religious matter is something that arises in your business, book a call with our HR and Employment Law team who are here to support you.