The holy month of Ramadan starts in the U.S. on April 2, 2022 and ends with Eid al-Fitr on May 2. As the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is considered the holiest, many Muslims spend the month dedicating themselves by fasting and taking part in religious practices.
While some employees will ask for time off during the month, many Muslim employees who continue to work will fast from sunrise to sunset every day, which is about 12 hours in the U.S. this time of year. During Ramadan, Muslims will also spend evenings in a special prayer at a mosque as well as a celebration breaking their fast.
When it comes to supporting employees who are celebrating Ramadan, it is important to remember there are many interpretations and practices of faith as well as differing levels of observance. Leaders and managers should ask about specific needs or flexibility with individual employees when determining if they will be fasting, but here are three best practices for the month:
- Be considerate when scheduling meetings.
As much as possible, don’t schedule lunch meetings with employees who are fasting. Same goes for any social or after-work events where food is involved. If employees work an evening or overnight shift, consider special allowances to break fast at sunset. Perhaps arrange meals in an office lunchroom or kitchenette.
Also, the physical impacts of fasting, in addition to hunger, include tiredness and fatigue, so employees’ concentration, productivity and performance may ebb. Consider, where possible, having meetings in the morning when people are fresher. Think about whether employees’ roles will be safe for them — or those around them — to conduct while they are experiencing the physical challenges of fasting, and reassign as needed or provide additional assistance.
- Offer flexible work hours and space.
If employees are fasting, then they likely are not actually taking a lunch hour, so perhaps there is an allowance that can be made for them to start later or end earlier. Similarly, if Muslim employees have assigned shifts, perhaps there are swaps or adjustments that can be made for the month.
Alternatively, employees may want or need to rest during the day, so try to accommodate both with schedules as well as by providing space. This space could also be used throughout the day for prayer.
- Put effort into being supportive.
This can range from educating fellow employees on the effects of fasting to hosting a sharing session on the cultural practices of Ramadan. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with the Eid al-Fitr, Festival of Fast-breaking. While many Muslim employees may take off to celebrate the two- or three-day holiday with family and friends, consider hosting an office version.
It is also important to have clear policies around religious holidays, so everyone knows what is expected but also that no preferential treatment is being given.