Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is considered by Muslims to be a particularly holy month. This year Ramadan starts on Wednesday, the 11th of August. It continues for 30 days until Thursday, the 9th of September.
During this time Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
To help clarify and cleanse the mind, they fast from dawn to dusk and pay particular attention to spiritual matters. The fast is not compulsory, but is encouraged among the devout who are in good health. Those participating can eat or drink before daybreak, but then take nothing – not even water – until sunset. This has implications for employers.
For example, if you have employees who are doing work which requires a high level of concentration and/ or where there are safety implications, it’s worth considering rostering employees to work early and go home early so that they don’t become too tired or dizzy.
There’s no automatic right to time off for religious festivals or to particular hours of work, but a little flexibility can pay dividends. Employers don’t have to allow time off or changes to the usual routine if it would adversely affect the business, but a reasonable employer will look at requests for annual or unpaid leave and allow time off to pray, especially at sunset.
As part of this, be flexible about meal breaks, i.e. allow breaks at dusk to coincide with the breaking of the fast. Accommodating religious practices does not mean allowing extra time off, but rather being flexible about employees’ existing holiday entitlement or break periods.
You don’t have to tiptoe round those participating in Ramadan (you don’t where people have given things up for Lent),but try to be sensitive. For example, don’t schedule meetings at sunset when Muslims are due to break their fast.
To accommodate employees who are involved in religious practices in a commercially sensible fashion, it can be helpful to canvass opinions and ideas from your staff to come up with a plan to support the needs of all parties.
This will need buy-in from all staff to work well and there is something of the element of quid pro quo about it. For example, Muslim drivers who work the early shifts during Ramadan might be rostered to cover late or weekend shifts over Easter or Christmas when other groups of employees want to finish early.
If you find yourself in such a situation get in touch.
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