As part of our Ramadan In The Workplace: In Focus series of blog posts, here we offer 5 tips for accommodating Muslim employees during Ramadan…
Ramadan is a religious holiday observed by Muslims. One of the key features of Ramadan is the practice of fasting during the day. The practice of fasting involves not eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset.
Not everyone chooses to fast. Those who may find the fast taxing; for example pregnant women, the elderly or those who are sick, can choose not to fast.
For white collar workers, fasting during Ramadan may not be an issue: people already get out of bed early, eat breakfast before the break of dawn, commute, proceed with their working day, and break the fast in the evening after work has finished. Here, with forward planning, fasting can be built into common 9-5 working hours.
However for blue collar workers fasting could be far trickier. Workers who exert a lot of energy; such as builders, long-distance drivers and many more, could find it difficult to carry out their role without the energy from day-time meals and hydration.
Accommodation for workers observing Ramadan is not a legal requirement, however it does make commercial sense. A worker who is treated well will be more enthused about their work, and are likely to stay for longer than those who are not.
Below are our 5 tips on ways you can accommodate the needs of your workers during Ramadan:
1. Allow regular breaks for prayer or to rest
Ramadan is a religious time, and those observing it are likely to want to participate in daily prayers including during worktime. In addition, by the end of the working day, an employee is likely to be low in energy due to not eating or drinking. Requiring an employee to go on lunch at a specific time, and to refuse to accommodate prayers without justification or rests, may give rise to an indirect discrimination claim.
2. Try to allow time off if requested during Ramadan
Holiday requests should be considered based on the needs of the business. However unreasonable rejection could result in a discrimination claim. A practical, fair approach should be adopted when deciding whether to allow holidays. Should there be the capacity within the business to allow the employee to take the time off then it should be allowed.
3. Do not require employees to take time off during Ramadan
Just as you should allow time off where you can for those observing Ramadan, you should also avoid requiring employees to take time off during this time. Requiring staff members to do so could lead to a direct discrimination claim. You would be applying a policy which is less favourable only to Muslim employees, which is directly related to their religious belief, which you would not be applicable to non-Muslim employees. This would lead to a claim for indirect discrimination and such a policy would therefore require justification. Therefore, it is advisable that such policies are avoided.
4. Consider flexible working or home working
Flexible working can be a good way of allowing employees to work when they will be the most productive. A shift worker may request to be put on nights during Ramadan, so they can eat and drink whilst they are working. Or a 9 to 5 worker may ask to work from home. If there are facilities which allow this, then it can not only assist the worker, but can also mean that they are more productive and the work they produce during this time is less likely to be affected.
5. Do not discipline workers for impaired performance which comes as a result of fasting during Ramadan
When Ramadan falls during the summer, the time between dawn and sunset is much longer. This can mean that a staff member is without food and drink for an extended period of time. This could have an impact on a workers performance during this period. If the staff member’s performance is usually up to the standard that is expected then, within reason, disciplinary action should only be taken as a last resort. Whilst to do so is unlikely to be discriminatory other options should be considered and if disciplinary action is deemed appropriate then fasting and its effects should be taken into account before sanction is determined.
Employers should adopt a practical approach when dealing with employees fasting during Ramadan. The ability to negotiate and adapt during this short period is suggested, to come to agreeable arrangements with employees.
For more information on this article or any aspect of Employment law, please contact Yunus Lunat on 0113 284 5023 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read our other Ramadan In The Workplace: In Focus blog posts: