Do I need to let my Muslim workers have time off for Ramadan?
How can I approach Ramadan with my employees?
How do I support my Muslim workforce during Ramadan?
Ramadan (Tuesday 13th April-Wednesday 12th May 2021) is a period of religious observance for many Muslims and includes fasting from sunrise to sunset.
Here, we discuss ways that employers can support workers to observe religious festivals, specifically during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Muslim Council of Britain have issued guidance for #SafeRamadan, to assist Employers in understanding how the pandemic may affect their Muslim workforce.
Tip #1 – Distribute a religious observance policy
Management need to know the Employer’s religious observance policy and treat all workforce the same under it. If allowances are made for one employee’s religious observance but not another employee, it is likely this will amount to direct religious discrimination.
If you don’t have a policy in place or show support as an Employer to employees who observe certain religious practices, this could lead to accusations of and claims for religious discrimination.
Tip #2 – Be tolerant to reduced productivity levels
It’s likely that fasting employees’ productivity will reduce, especially towards the end of the working day. Management should demonstrate awareness and understanding, avoiding undue penalisation or criticism of such an employee.
Case law shows (Bhatti and another v Pontiac Coils Europe Ltd) that critical comments made to a worker regarding her reduced work productivity levels due to fasting amounted to direct religious discrimination and harassment.
Tip #3 Accommodate annual leave requests where possible
There can be an influx of annual leave requests from employees to observe religious festivals, such as Eid, which brings the fasting period of Ramadan to an end.
Although it may be impractical for the Employer to be able to grant all leave requests for such periods, the Employer should support their religious workforce for all religions in the same way, particularly as the majority of Christian holidays are already provided for as bank/public holidays in the UK.
Tip #4 – Consider the effects of off-site meetings and events
The Employer should consider carefully requests to be excused from attending work conferences, offsite visists, training and similar events during Ramadan, as a failure to do so might amount to direct and indirect religious discrimination.
Employers should arrange meetings with concerned employees to listen to and understand their reservations on event attendance, and try to reach a compromise. One concern might be networking dinners/drinks at the event if the employee is fasting.
Remember… every person will express their faith in their own way…
so show patience and understanding to your employees whilst they undergo periods of religious observance.