Best practices for supporting employees during Ramadan

By Kiljon Shukullari

Law360 Canada (March 30, 2023, 9:28 AM EDT) --
Kiljon Shukullari
Kiljon Shukullari
During the holy month of Ramadan, 1.6 billion Muslims will abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. It’s a time to reflect and practise intense devotion and spirituality.

Fasting for hours may affect employee productivity at work which makes it important to have certain measures in place to help staff during this month. Employers can do their part by creating a supportive work environment for Muslim employees.

Below are some HR best practices for supporting employees during Ramadan.

1. Acknowledge Ramadan and be empathetic to staff who are fasting 

A good starting point would be to send out an internal email with details on what the holy month represents and how you’ll be showing support towards staff. This will help to create a safe and open space for fasting staff to come to you with any questions or concerns, especially when it comes to any accommodations they may need. This will help to start a conversation and ensure everything goes smoothly.

This is a very sacred month for Muslim employees. It’s important to show support and ensure they have the resources or any accommodation they may need to be able to work.

2. Consider offering flexible working hours 

Depending on the nature of the job, employers can allow employers more flexible work hours so they can make Ramadan easier. For example, fasting staff will likely choose to not take their lunch, but they are still entitled to take a break. Employers can allow for flexibility in choosing when to take their break, perhaps staff can leave work earlier.

Another way is to allow for more hybrid or remote work during this month. It's also great to let staff working late shifts get enough break time to pray and break their fast.

3. Be proactive with managing time off requests 

The last 10 days of Ramadan are the holiest and a time to observe religious practices. Towards the end of Ramadan is where employers will likely see an increase in time off requests, especially as staff celebrate Eid, which is the day after Ramadan ends.

It’s important to remember that since the Islamic calendar is lunar, employees may not know the exact dates they’ll need time off. So, the request will likely be made on short notice. To avoid any issues with scheduling vacations, employers can have open communication with staff so they can give a heads-up and employers can plan ahead.

4. Have a policy on religious observance 

Having policy on all religious observances during working hours will ensure that all staff are on the same page and are made aware of all the policies in place. The policy can outline various flexible options available to staff taking part in religious observances.

It’s also important your policy on religious observance applies to all religions otherwise it may be deemed discriminatory.

Kiljon Shukullari is human resources advisory manager at Peninsula Canada.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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