How can you support your Muslim employees this Ramadan?
Muslims all over the world will start celebrating Ramadan tonight (22 March), marking the beginning of a holy month which tests their devotion to God and is a time of spiritual healing and growth.
Typically Muslims gather in prayer, have Quranic readings, and practice mindfulness to ensure they can make the most out of the fasting month.
But it can be challenging for Muslims to fully embody this pious and introspective time, alongside a busy work life.
Here’s how you can better support your Muslim staff or co-workers during Ramadan, for a more inclusive workplace.
Help Muslim employees pray on time
It’s important for Muslims to be able to pray on time during Ramadan, so offering some kind of prayer room, or helping employees leave work on time will be appreciated.
For example, if someone can leave five minutes early, even when it’s busy, with no questions asked, you will be supporting them. Alternatively, if you have space, you could set up a dedicated prayer room in your office, but make sure male and female workers have separate spaces to pray.
Consider reduced hours
During Ramadan, Muslims alter their sleep schedules, tending to sleep later and wake at dawn, before falling back to sleep again. As a result, starting working at 9am can prove especially challenging.
If you’re able to offer more flexible working hours, it could help Muslim workers. Others may prefer to take a reduced lunch break, enabling them to get out of work earlier.
Be prepared for those wanting to break their fast at work
Fasting is one of the essential five pillars of Islam, and during the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, water, smoking, sex and all sensory pleasures from dawn to dusk.
However, if you have Muslim employees working after sunset – known as maghrib – supplying dates and water ready for them to break their fast, if they so wish, would be a nice touch.
Avoid evening meetings
Try and avoid, or reschedule, late evening meetings or work events, so Muslim employees can rest and prepare for iftar – the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan, and break their fast.
However, make sure that missing out on any opportunities doesn’t equate to being excluded from activities.
Be sensitive and self-aware
When chatting with colleagues in the workplace, do not minimise or ridicule what for many is a sacred religious event. Muslims look forward to Ramadan as a time to feel more connected to God, families and friends.
Making comments such as “fasting must be a good way to lose weight” or “is fasting compulsory?” is rude. You should also avoid questioning whether Ramadan is optional, or inferring that it is an inconvenience.
Ramadan is a religious tradition, and time to reflect on what God has given you, and be grateful for life.
Raising awareness of what Ramadan is and its impact on Muslim colleagues can also foster better team connections.
Be open to altered annual leave
Ramadan is founded on the Islamic calendar, which is lunar. Consequently, Muslims might not know when Eid or Ramadan is until the night before.
If you receive last-minute requests to change annual leave, try and be accommodating.
The final 10 days of Ramadan are especially holy, so allowing Muslims to take time off or come in late during this time would be welcome, and will enable them to focus on prayer.