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Employment Law Update – Employers Guide to Ramadan

Ramadan started on 1st August. Muslims (including those who may not normally practice or pray) take the holy month extremely seriously. During this time participating Muslims fast during daylight hours and offer special prayers.

Employers can do a number of things to help ensure those who are participating in the religious observance, and those who are not, are dealt with fairly and sensibly. Muslims are likely to pray the two afternoon prayers at their place of work.

There is no requirement to provide extra time off, but try to allow the time and somewhere quiet in which to do this. The period from sunrise to sunset is along one at this time of year remember that those fasting may well feel tired later in the day.

This has implications for the operation of machinery, driving etc. Try to organise meetings earlier rather than later in the day and where you use a flexible shift system, consider putting those participating on the early shift during the course of this month. On the subject of food, try to avoid ‘working lunches’, but if there is no alternative, explain the practicalities of the situation to non-Muslims.

Muslims who are participating in Ramadan are unlikely to commit to voluntary evening functions, e.g. a client dinner. Where a Muslim employee has to work beyond sunset, make arrangements for him or her to eat something and pray at sunset.

Ramadan is followed by Eid (31st August) a three day feast marking the end of Ramadan. Many Muslims want to take this as a holiday. If you can accommodate the request, then do so, but the usual rules apply and holiday must only be taken with agreement by the employer.

If a person takes holiday without permission – even for reasons associated with religious belief – it’s still an unauthorised absence. It’s a good idea to make your managers, aware of the practical issues surrounding Ramadan and its impact on Muslim employees.

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