What can employers do to support employees who are observing Ramadan?

During the month of Ramadan, which in 2023 is expected to last from 22 March to 21 April, many Muslims will fast each day between sunrise and sunset, and perform additional prayers and other religious duties. Employers should be aware of the potential effects on employees of not eating or drinking during the day, combined with a change to sleep patterns, and should consider taking steps to support them.

Employers should not assume that all Muslim employees will be observing Ramadan in the same way, or that those who are fasting will want the employer to make special arrangements for them. Employers could encourage all employees to discuss with them any impact that they think fasting could have on their work, and any measures that could be helpful.

Where employees are working at home while observing Ramadan, there may be greater scope for flexibility in terms of their working hours. However, there could also be potential issues relating to employees‘ wellbeing, such as working for long periods without interruption. Employers should encourage all employees working at home to take regular breaks, but this may be particularly beneficial for employees who are fasting.

Depending on the nature of the work, steps that employers could consider to support employees who are observing Ramadan include:

  • arranging shifts to accommodate employees‘ preferences where possible, for example so that an employee can finish work in time to break the fast at sunset;
  • accommodating requests for annual leave;
  • making colleagues aware that it is Ramadan and encouraging them to be supportive of their fasting colleagues, in particular by not offering them food or drink (where employees are still in the workplace);
  • enabling employees to arrange their working days to allow for lower energy and concentration levels in the afternoon, for example by scheduling important meetings or work involving operating machinery in the morning, and tasks that are less physically or mentally demanding later in the day; and
  • allowing flexible working, for example an earlier start time, a short lunch break or extra breaks for prayer.

Not all employers will be able to accommodate requests for flexibility in working hours or for annual leave, for example due to staffing issues. Employers are not obliged to agree to such requests from employees observing Ramadan, provided that they can objectively justify any refusal.

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