As businesses become more and more diverse and inclusive, it is important to understand the necessity in accommodating employees during Ramadan and other religious holidays. For Muslims specifically, Ramadan represents one of the holiest months of the year and dramatically alters their daily lives.
This year, with Ramadan set to start at the end of April, it is more important than ever for employers to offer accommodations to their Muslim staff. With the long days spent fasting, it can be particularly difficult on observing staff to put in 100% and remain focused throughout the workday.
Employers looking to accommodate their observing staff will not only increase loyalty and appreciation but will find higher retention rates amongst those members. Simple accommodations can go a long way and be remembered by employees as they consider other employment opportunities.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is considered the holiest month in Islam. It falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by fasting and prayers throughout the month. Ramadan typically lasts 29-30 days, from the first crescent moon sighting to the next.
As a matter of obligation, all capable Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Certain exclusions are made, particularly for the elderly, those who are ill, or for pregnant women. However, the general consensus remains that the fast is obligatory on all capable adults.
During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims will opt to break their fast and attend additional prayers later in the evening. Whether this occurs at their local mosque or in their own homes, these prayers can go well into the night.
The end of Ramadan is marked by the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. This holiday marks the return to normalcy and daily life. It is also a major holiday in Islam, comparable to Christmas or Hanukah. Once the holiday has been announced, and Ramadan completed, no further obligatory fasting is required until the following year.
Reasons to Offer Accommodations During Ramadan
While not technically legally necessary, accommodating employees during Ramadan whom have taken up the fast can be seen as a generous and thoughtful gesture. This level of outreach will build goodwill and appreciation amongst the staff, both for those who are fasting and those who are not.
In addition to the goodwill and appreciation, providing accommodations to fasting staff will allow for those employees to feel valued and taken care of. These simple acts can substantially bolster morale and employee engagement.
Employees who are valued and feel taken care of are substantially more productive. This productivity is a direct result of the satisfaction they feel with their employer. In addition, these employees are far less willing to leave an accommodating and understanding employer, leading to lower turnover and a higher retention rate.
While you may want to offer accommodations to fasting staff, you will also want to ensure that the required workload is properly managed and handled. This can be tricky and will require some forethought before implementation.
In addition, by offering accommodations to employees during Ramadan, you will want to consider other accommodations for staff of differing faiths throughout the year. This will help to reduce, or avoid, any feelings of isolation or resentment. Similar accommodations should be made to non-religious members as well.
Adjusting Work Hours
One of the easiest forms of accommodation can come from adjusting working hours. For employees working indoors and, on a computer, it may be helpful to offer additional work from home days. This can help employees to gain an additional hour of sleep and avoid the morning and afternoon commutes.
For employees working outside, particularly in construction, it may be helpful to rearrange their working hours if possible. Allowing those employees to work after sunset is one great solution.
Offering Flexible Hours
As employees partaking in a daily fast won’t be able to take advantage of their lunch or snack breaks, it can be appreciated to allow them to leave work early and return home in time to break their fast with their families. This flexible schedule should be discussed with the employees beforehand to ensure the hours are amiable and flexible for them and their needs.
Provide Napping Rooms
Fasting for up to 16 hours can be particularly difficult for anyone. One way to ease that difficulty is to offer a dedicated napping room for employees. These rooms do not need to be only for those who are fasting either. Dedicated spaces for napping have been shown to increase employee performance and behavior.
Provide Prayer Rooms
Ramadan is meant to be a devout month, with daily fasts and additional prayers. Muslims typically try to increase their awareness of their religion and will try to commit to additional, and obligatory, prayers. Offering a dedicated prayer space can help those staff members feel appreciated and understood.
Allow Lunch Meeting Absences
Many employers offer weekly lunch and learns or provide lunch during meetings. While this is a great thing, it can be difficult for staff that are fasting. Rather than completely stopping that practice, allow fasting staff to miss the meeting. They can be briefed on the details after the meeting. This will help them to avoid the difficulty in watching their colleagues eat, while maintaining the provision for others.
Provide Floating Holidays
Many employers have recently began offering floating holidays. These are days which can be used for any holiday not recognized officially by the employer on the holiday schedule. Floating holidays are one of the best ways to accommodate multiple staff members, and religious groups, without the need to individually approve each holiday request.
Accommodating employees during Ramadan who are fasting can lead to an increase in productivity, appreciation, goodwill, and satisfaction. These employees are much more likely to remain with the company and to remain loyal to the work and progress the company has set out to complete.
While accommodating employees during Ramadan may appear difficult, at first, the accommodations can be easily enacted. The main consideration should be on ensuring all staff members feel that they are being treated equally and with an equal amount of respect.