How to better support Muslim colleagues during Ramadan

Ramadan is one of the holiest months for Muslims around the world. Most people know that it’s mandatory to fast between dawn and dusk. But beyond that, Ramadan is a month of prayer, reflection, and community.

This month can be challenging for those who observe, as they must balance their spiritual obligations with their regular workday. Teams should understand the significance of Ramadan and offer support to their Muslim colleagues.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It’s a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, and spending time with loved ones. Many also engage in acts of charity and self-improvement.

This year, Ramadan starts on 10 March and is expected to end on 8 April. During this period, Muslims fast daily from sunrise until sunset. They abstain not just from food and drinks but also from pleasures like smoking. Additionally, increased prayer sessions are often encouraged during this month.

A one-day celebration known as Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, which involves gathering with family and friends to enjoy meals and company.

Why is Ramadan important to Muslims?

Ramadan holds great spiritual, social, and personal significance for Muslims.

Muslims everywhere join in celebrating their faith, creating a sense of worldwide solidarity. Communities come together for prayers, iftars (the breaking of the fast), and other social activities, fostering a sense of unity.

This holy month is also a significant time for spiritual renewal and self-reflection. Through prayer, fasting, and Quran reading, Muslims aim to strengthen their relationship with God and grow their spirituality.

But fasting isn’t just about abstaining from food and drinks; it’s also about refraining from negative thoughts and behaviours to develop self-control, patience, and humility.

How can I support team members during Ramadan?

If anyone in your business is observing Ramadan, you must be mindful of their new routine.

Making an effort  to understand their experience and accommodate reasonable adjustments shows good leadership and nurtures mutual trust. Muslims have specific religious practices, but these become more obvious during Ramadan.

For many Muslims, work commitments are easily accomplished during Ramadan as they plan effectively and adjust their routines to maintain a smooth workflow.

Consultation remains key in policy creation. However, best practice guidelines exist for people and culture professionals to follow when addressing Ramadan or other religious holidays at work.

Our suggestions use best practices, but their relevance will depend on how well you understand your team and their needs – whether you have one person or 100 people observing Ramadan.

Embrace flexible working           

Fasting can be mentally and physically challenging. The first few days are usually the hardest, as getting used to a new routine can take time.

Changes in sleep patterns can also increase fatigue. They may result in decreased productivity and difficulty concentrating, especially towards the end of the day.

Adjusting working hours or working from home can significantly benefit Muslim colleagues during Ramadan. Allowing more flexibility around start times and breaks goes a long way to improving morale.

These changes don’t have to be permanent. Still, a willingness to make temporary adjustments will send a positive message to people of all faiths in your business.

Be mindful of your scheduling

A vital factor to consider during Ramadan is the potentially fluctuating energy levels resulting from a full day of fasting.

This month, Muslims will have a pre-dawn meal before starting their fast, so they’ll likely have more energy and focus in the mornings. Consider strategically scheduling meetings with those fasting in the morning. If you’re unsure what times work best for your business, talk to your people about what times will best accommodate their obligations.

For employers with Muslim colleagues working late or in the evening, allowing them a break at sunset would be beneficial to break their fast and pray.

Also, allow time throughout the day to pray, as Muslims are expected to pray at least five times a day. A clean, private, and quiet space can make a massive difference.

Because it is so close to Easter, you may see an increase in annual leave requests as Ramadan ends. Many Muslims will want to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their families and communities.

There’s no automatic entitlement to time off for any religious holidays, including Ramadan, so people will need to apply for annual leave. As it’s a busy time of year, you may not be able to grant every holiday request, but you should be as fair and accommodating as possible. Be aware – refusing a holiday request without clear business reasons could land you in hot water.

Foster open communication

Fasting affects everyone differently, so regular check-ins to see how your people are doing can have a considerable impact. A simple conversation can assure them they’re supported and provide valuable insights into any required adjustments.

If your organisation offers an employee assistance programme, encourage your team to use this if they’re struggling to juggle their spiritual and work obligations. This is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to wellbeing and building a positive workplace culture.

Keep health and safety in mind

You should carefully consider the health and safety of team members observing this holy month.

One of the primary concerns is making sure anyone fasting is not put into a situation which could compromise their safety or the safety of those around them, as dehydration and fatigue can impact your concentration and judgement.

So, it’s essential to ensure that workplace activities, such as heavy physical labour, long shifts, or working with machinery, are adjusted to accommodate the energy levels of people fasting.

Educate your team

If you want to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, education is a critical step.

You may have people on your team who don’t understand the significance of Ramadan in the Islamic faith despite Islam being the second-largest religion worldwide after Christianity.

Encourage your teams to have open conversations and learn from each other. You can also share resources for people to read on their own. Alternatively, you could invite Muslim team members to share their experiences in an interactive session with colleagues.

For diversity and inclusion to truly work, your team needs to understand the cultural and religious differences and know how to support those individuals at work. The more people understand the better equipped we are to help those around us.

Another benefit of education is that it can help prevent awkward situations, such as offering food or drink to fasting colleagues or unintentionally asking sensitive questions.

Not everyone will fast during Ramadan due to personal reasons, like illness, pregnancy, or disability. To avoid ignorant questions on why a Muslim colleague is still eating and drinking, educating colleagues on this face is essential.

More News & Insights

Sign Up for Updates

if you would like to sign up to our regular informative newsletter, please complete the form below.