Tips offered by Pamela Brown, Head of Business Development at Equal Approach.
‘Ramadan’ refers to the name of the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar. This month is considered to be the holiest of the twelve, and commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. In short, it is considered the month of the year Muslims dedicate themselves to God.
The Islamic Calendar is calculated according the lunar cycles, and Ramadan begins when the new moon is sited, and as a result the start and finish times change from year to year, usually getting 10 days earlier. This year Ramadan started on 7th June and will run until 5th July.
During the period of Ramadan adult Muslims will fast (unless they have a health condition that does not allow them to do so) every day from sunrise to sunset, which is one of the five pillars – or duties – of Islam. While fasting, individuals refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and other activities during daylight hours. It is common to have one meal, known as the Suhoor, just before dawn and another, known as the Iftar, directly after sunset.
Ramadan is also a time of deep contemplation and prayer to Allah, and charitable generosity.
This year, Muslims in the UK are facing for the ‘longest’ Ramadan in 33 years, as the holy month coincides with the summer solstice, meaning long days of fasting lasting between 16 to 19 hours, depending on location, with those in Scotland facing the longest fast. In 10 or so years Muslims in Britain will be fasting much shorter periods as Ramadan will fall during the winter, as it starts around 10 days earlier each year due to the lunar cycles.
Fasting for long periods of time will impact individuals and employers should do what they can to support them.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London recently said the thing he would miss the most is his coffee at work, but he would also be promoting better community relations and understanding of Islam by hosting Iftars in churches, synagogues’ and mosques.
Head teachers in schools had expressed concerned about the impact Ramadan may have on Muslim pupils taking exams this year, and as a result exam boards have ensured that key GCSE and A-Level examinations were scheduled to take account of the holy month. Similar measures are likely to be in place for at least five years, until Ramadan no longer clashes with the exam season.
Supporting Employees During Ramadan
Many Muslims will continue to work throughout Ramadan, and organisations and colleagues should do what they can to support them
1. Have a Policy on Religious Observance
Organisations should have a policy regarding religious observance during working hours in place in order to ensure the organisation is consistent and managers are guided as to what they can do to support employees. An absence of such a policy, or a failure to be supportive towards employees whose religious beliefs require them to observe certain practices, could lead to accusations of religious discrimination.
2. Managers Should Be Considerate, Tolerant and Understanding
Managers should be considerate of Muslim colleagues doing Ramadan and should support them to manage their workload. The productivity levels of employees who are fasting may be affected, particularly towards the latter part of the working day, so managers should show tolerance and be understanding of this, and should not unduly penalise or criticise employees’ whose productivity is reduced because they are fasting.
Communicate with you employees and raise awareness amongst colleagues about Ramadan and what fasting entails, and encourage discussion. Individuals should be mindful that Muslims will be fasting during this period, so should avoid arranging lunch meetings or eating at their desks, and should not refrain from offering Muslim colleagues drinks. By being aware that individuals are fasting, colleagues are more likely to be mindful of their own behaviour and understanding of how this might affect others working practices.
4. Flexible Working
Where possible flexible working should be granted to colleagues to support them throughout Ramadan, where possible this should be detailed in the organisations policy on Religious Observance. Some individuals may prefer to start their working day earlier, or work through their lunch hours in order to finish earlier. By allowing employees to work flexibly during Ramadan, they are more likely to have higher levels of productivity.
5. Be Accommodating of Annual Leave Requests
Muslim employees may wish to take annual leave towards the end of Ramadan to celebrate Eid. With Eid falling in July this year, which is a popular time for employees to take annual leave, managers should try to be accommodating of annual leave requests during this period especially for new colleagues who may not have had the opportunity to submit holiday requests in advance.
Once Ramadan is over, celebrate Eid with your Muslim colleagues. It is a wonderful occasion with lots of food and presents and spending time with family and friends. A colleague of mine celebrating Eid last year was also celebrating the fact he had had given up smoking and lost a stone in weight due to his observances during Ramadan!
Ramadan Mubarak to all those taking part this year.