1. Be understanding of the effect on workFasting during sunlight hours will have a different effect on each individual, although the likely impact will be to lower productivity levels of employees, especially towards the end of the day. Managers should be understanding of this and take practical steps to reduce the effect, such as scheduling important meetings early in the day or allowing employees to have a period of rest when they are showing fatigue. Any less favourable treatment, because the employee is observing Ramadan, is likely to be classed as religious discrimination.
2. Consider flexibilityAs daylight hours increase, observing Muslims will be required to start their day earlier than normal to eat a meal before sunrise. This can lead to a substantial gap before the working day starts and the employee is likely to be detrimentally affected by a long working day. Where possible, offering flexible working hours during Ramadan. For example, starting earlier will help the employee as they will be at work during the hours they have the most energy. Additionally, it will allow them to finish work earlier and avoid strenuous mental or physical activity during the later hours of the day. Flexibility around the employee’s duties can also be considered. For example, requiring them to attend a client lunch whilst fasting may not be appropriate. Instead, consider whether the location of the meeting can be amended or agree that food will not be served.
3. Manage holiday requests positivelyEmployees who observe Ramadan may submit requests to take a substantial amount of holiday over the month, as well as receiving requests from other employees for their summer holidays. Some employers may have a religious holiday policy in place which outlines whether these requests will be handled differently. Refusing holiday requests made for religious observance can be discriminatory so employers need to ensure that they discuss any alternatives with the employee and have a sound business reason for any refusal.
4. Introduce a religious observance policyOutlining how the business will recognise religious observance during Ramadan can be done effectively through an internal policy. The policy can encourage employees to inform their manager that they will be observing Ramadan and ask them to discuss any flexibility or amended working arrangements during the month. The policy can also state how the business will support employees who are carrying out religious observance, such as making facilities available for prayer, reducing expectations of employees, and applying special rules to holiday requests. It’s important that the policy applies to all religions and does not simply focus on one.
5. Raise awarenessColleagues are often an employee’s greatest support at work. Fasting and fatigue during Ramadan can affect the employee’s personality, however, by making them short-tempered or irritable. To increase understanding across the workforce, employers can provide employees with general information on Ramadan, the religious requirements and how this may affect fellow members of staff. Alan Price is Employment Law Director at Peninsula.
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