Ramadan in the workplace: Best practice guide for employers

By Alex Millman and Lindsay Carroll, NRA Legal

Yesterday evening, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan commenced, to end on the evening of 12 May 2021.

During Ramadan, practicing Muslims will abstain from food or drink, including water, from sunrise to sunset.

This can pose some challenges for employers, from the prevalence of “lunch meetings” to work health and safety concerns. In this article, we will outline some means by which employers can manage their businesses to support those partaking in Ramadan and the wider workplace.

 

Be flexible where possible

Since the fasting period during Ramadan lasts from sunrise to sunset, the duration of the fast can be significantly different depending on where the workplace is located.

In many countries with a primarily Muslim population, many of which are equatorial, the working day is itself shortened in order to relieve the burden on those fasting.

While a shortened working day across the board might not be sustainable for particular businesses, employers should be mindful that their workers may be looking at a long day with only the morning meal to sustain them until sunset.

With this in mind, employees may ask to alter their working hours during this period, such as asking to start earlier in the day, or to work remotely. Where possible, employers ought to give such requests proper consideration.

 

Be mindful of the practice and its impact

Employers should also consider the impact that fasting from dawn to dusk may have on their workers.

Those fasting during Ramadan will typically rise pre-dawn to eat before fasting until sunset; not only does this limit the individual’s intake of sustenance, but it may also disrupt their sleeping pattern. This can affect the employee’s productivity, particularly later in the day.

Employers should consider what this might mean for planning work flows. For example, an important meeting is unlikely to receive your employee’s full attention if you schedule it at the end of the work day, some eight hours after they last ate.

Also bear in mind that the lack of all food and drink during the working day can be a work health and safety risk. Dehydration and fatigue are common issues, so try and manage work to limit the risks that these hazards can pose – for example, don’t require someone who is fasting to work outdoors, as this would increase the risk of dehydration.

This also has implications for the provision of first aid should these risks come to pass. As in all cases, consent is key, and employers should be aware that some employees may decline the assistance that is being offered if it will require breaking fast. In these cases, work with the employee to determine how best to help them, and if the risks are foreseeable have this conversation in advance.

 

Supportive and inclusive workplaces are key

Respect and understanding of cultural and religious practices is key to a supporting and harmonious workplace. Mindfulness of the above matters is important not only for managers, but also for your employees generally.

Inculcating knowledge and understanding helps with transparency, which in turn helps to smooth any potentially ruffled feathers when someone declines the morning coffee run, and help explain why some staff may be working different hours for a short time.

If you have any questions or concerns about anything raised in this article, contact NRA Legal on 1800 572 679.