This year Ramadan begins on the 16th May and will last for 30 days, until the 14th June. Ramadan is the 9thmonth of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran.
Throughout this period, Muslims will fast and engage in extra prayers and worship. Therefore, it is extremely important employers are aware of their obligations towards their Muslim employees.
What does the law say?
In the Equality Act 2010, religion or belief can mean any religion. For example, an organised religion like Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Buddhism, or, a smaller religion like Rastafarianism or Paganism. Legislation also covers those with no beliefs or lack of beliefs.
Therefore, it will be viewed as unlawful should you treat an employee less favourably because of their religion or beliefs.
Have workplace policies on religious observance
Employers should have workplace policies regarding religious observance during working hours. This will ensure the workplace is consistent and managers are aware of what they can do to support employees. Lack of policies or failing to support your employees will expose the business to complaints of religious discrimination.
Employers and managers should be considerate and understanding
Throughout Ramadan, managers should be mindful of Muslim colleagues and offer support to help manage their workload. Employers may find that the productivity levels of employees who are fasting are affected, thus, employees should not be unduly penalised or criticised in the even that they lose productivity during fasting hours.
Where possible, employers may wish to consider implementing flexible working arrangements during Ramadan, all of which should be clearly set out in the workplace religious observance policy. In this instance, employees may prefer to start working earlier and work right through lunch in order to finish early. Employers will find that productivity is less likely to be affected when employees are granted the right to work flexibly during Ramadan.
Be corporative with holiday requests
With Ramadan ending in the middle of June this year, Muslim employees may wish to take annual leave to allow them to celebrate Eid with friends and family. There is no automatic legal requirement to time off, however, employers and managers should try their best to accommodate any requests during this time period.
Should an employer decide to refuse an employee time off following Ramadan, there should be a clear and fair reason provided as to why their annual leave request cannot be accommodated at that time.
How can Employment Law Services (ELS) Help?
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