How to support Muslims at work during Ramadan

Farhanah Iqbal, our Senior Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, shares insight on how to support Muslim employees during Ramadan.

Keep reading to learn more about what Ramadan is and how you can support your employees whilst raising awareness of its significance.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is considered one of the most spiritual times of the year and signifies the time during which the Qur’an was revealed.

It comprises one of the 5 pillars of Islam (the five tenets that uphold Islamic belief in practice) that practising Muslims observe: fasting. Although, it should be noted not all Muslims will be in a position to fast.

Those with physical or mental ill-health, those menstruating or travelling are not expected to fast but they are just as valid in their expression of faith. They are still able to partake in spiritually observing Ramadan, through prayer, charity and community connection.

Why do Muslims observe fasting during Ramadan?

Fasting is not just the act of refraining from food and drink (yes, even water), it is a spiritual cleansing. It’s a time of introspection, a focused exertion on patience and prayer, a stillness of the mind to quell the desires of the body and feed the soul. Throughout the world, millions of Muslims will observe fasting during the month of Ramadan, and this will impact many Muslims at work.

Many Muslims find Ramadan is a time where their usual spiritual practice increases, whilst other Muslims find Ramadan is a time to connect more with their faith than they do at other times of the year. This is part of each individual’s own journey that employers should be sensitive to.

When is Ramadan this year?

This year, Ramadan is predicted to start on 2 April 2022, however, this could be subject to change, depending on the sighting of the moon. This is because the Islamic calendar is lunar and follows the phases of the moon. As such, months begin with the first crescent of a new moon, and the new day begins after sunset. Because of this, the Islamic calendar is shorter than the Gregorian calendar by 10 to 11 days and so Islamic months travel throughout the seasons.

Ramadan lasts between 29-30 days and this year is predicted to end on 1 May 2022, but this could also change depending on the sighting of the moon. Fasting Muslims will refrain from food and water from sunrise to sunset throughout this time. This means during the longer Spring/Summer days this could range from 12-18 hours depending on where you live.

How to support Muslims at work during Ramadan

Remember that different people will be celebrating Ramadan in various ways. Supporting Muslims at work during this time is not just thinking about what to say to someone fasting for Ramdan, it’s about showing an understanding and considering how you can support individuals.

Here are some ways to support Muslims at work during Ramadan:

Be flexible with working arrangements and time off for Ramadan

Options for flexible working and time off are key to supporting Muslims during Ramadan. Fasting will likely have an impact on energy levels, coupled with longer nights spent in community and worship. Colleagues can be supported with more frequent rest breaks and more inclusive meeting hours.

This could include earlier starts and earlier finishes, forgoing lunch breaks for an earlier finish and having meetings during more core working hours.

The last ten days of Ramadan are considered the most sacred of the month and so requests for leave should take this into consideration. Whilst flexible working and time off are wonderful inclusive options, this should be a choice for employees and shouldn’t be applied as an expectation.

Discuss with your employees how to help them

As a group, Muslims are not a monolith. Everyone will have a different relationship and approach to their faith. Be mindful not to assume your employees needs, cultivate meaningful connections with your employees and provide opportunities where they can openly and safely discuss their needs with you.

Be prepared for annual leave requests for Eid celebrations

Recognising that the Islamic calendar is lunar allows employers to make space for understanding that Muslims won’t know the exact date upon which Eid will fall (as this depends on the sighting of the new moon). Eid is the festival that marks the end of Ramadan and this year is thought to take place between the evening of Monday 2 May and the evening of Tuesday 3 May.

This means many people may need to request time off at relatively short notice and others may request a range of 2-3 days off to make sure they will be off work at the right time.

For more flexible working arrangements, where organisational needs and service delivery permits allow, employees could provisionally book a range 2-3 days off and then work the days outside of where Eid lands. A pragmatic approach and open dialogue with employees is the best way forward.

Raise Ramadan awareness in the workplace

Many members of your team may be wondering how to wish someone a happy Ramadan; ensure that you provide some options so that your entire team can recognise the time and learn more about it.

Awareness is a building block for an inclusive workplace. Raising awareness of what Ramadan is and making space for the importance of it and its impact on Muslim colleagues during this time is a great way to build positive team connections.

There are many options that can be explored to raise awareness and celebrate diversity and inclusion during Ramadan. You may want to provide platforms for Muslim voices to share their Ramadan experiences if they wish, you could host fun engagement sessions using our Ramadan Quiz to test your colleagues knowledge of Ramadan and you could share our Ramadan To-Do List.

For a healthy, inclusive cultures to thrive, employers should be mindful of recognising the importance of and impact for employees who are fasting during the month.

Ramadan is a sacred and reflective time and those observing the month may not be inclined to attend social activities or events which are scheduled for the evening.

It’s important for employers to take an inclusive and proactive stance towards this if employees don’t wish to take part in such activities.

Whilst it’s important that employees be able to excuse themselves, care should also be taken that this does not result in them suffering a disadvantage in the workplace and missing out on opportunities that equate to levels of exclusion.

Understanding how to celebrate Eid at work

Muslims are a beautifully vast and diverse group, made up of a spectrum of cultural heritages, ethnicities and experiences.

A great way to celebrate Eid at work is recognising the diversity of the Muslim population and celebrating this through food and gatherings.

Organising an Eid meal for people to join in the celebrations as a team, or host an Eid lunch at the office (or virtually!) for everyone to share. Remember to honour the diversity of the population in the cuisine!

How Inclusive Employers can help support your workplace through Ramadan and Eid

For a healthy, inclusive cultures to thrive, employers should be mindful of recognising the importance of and impact for employees who are fasting during the month.

During this sacred and reflective time those observing Ramadan may not be inclined to attend social activities or events which are scheduled for the evening. It’s important for employers to take an inclusive and proactive stance towards this if employees don’t wish to take part in such activities.

Whilst it’s important that employees be able to excuse themselves, care should also be taken that this does not result in them suffering a disadvantage in the workplace and missing out on opportunities that equate to levels of exclusion.

Inclusive Employers can support your workplace throughout Ramadan and Eid. Members can speak to their account manager for ongoing support and expert consultancy advice. You can also register to take part in our webinar on creating inclusion throughout Ramadan and check out our Ramadan guidance to guide you in supporting the inclusion of Muslim colleagues during Ramadan.