As most employers are aware this is the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, says Kate Palmer.

For Muslims, Ramadan is a time for prayer, reflection, and community. Many will be observing the month by fasting, meaning they will not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset as an act of self-discipline to show their dedication to Allah.

Kate Palmer, Employment Services Director at Peninsula shares some tips for employers to support their Muslim employees during Ramadan.

During Ramadan, some employees will request time off to spend time with family, rest, or partake in religious activities. For some employers an increase in annual leave requests may be overwhelming however they should try to accommodate employees during this time.

As Ramadan draws to a close the festival of Eid ul-Fitr takes place, which is one of the most important celebrations on the Muslim calendar therefore employers may notice a particular increase in annual leave as the date nears.

Each business should already have a policy in place to handle annual leave requests. This may be a first-come-first-serve rule, or a minimum amount of notice to allow businesses to plan for absences and prevent running on a reduced workforce.

As the Islamic calendar is lunar, the start and finish dates for Ramadan vary each year. This means that employees may need to book annual leave at the last minute. If this is the case, then employers should try and accommodate as much as they reasonably can.

Most businesses will already have a procedure in place that deals with annual leave requests this could be a first-come-first serve approach or a minimum notice required before annual leave is taken.

Whilst this approach will work for the majority of annual leave requests as Ramadan is scheduled based on a lunar calendar, rather than the average calendar year, this means staff may be faced last minute annual leave requests.

Although this may go against the procedure that is put in place employers should be understanding of the employees individual needs at this time and ensure to accommodate where possible or make alternative arrangements to meet a middle ground.

There are many ways that both parties can be kept happy in this scenario such as,

  1. Consider flexible working.

Flexible working has been quite the talking point in recent years and the new working model may be the answer to an employer’s struggles here as this can allow employees to manage their work commitments around their religious and family obligations.

As employees will not be living via their usual routine during this time this means that working during certain times of the day may become a challenge or if their religious obligations coincide with their working ones then they must be given allocated time for breaks and praying.

Many employees will be running on reduced energy during this time therefore when employers see productivity teetering off during this period, they should remain understanding.

Flexible working includes many other options other than at-home working therefore if this option isn’t feasible for your business, then you could:

  • Let employees choose when to take breaks.
  • Changing start and finish times
  • Temporarily reducing hours
  • Sharing job responsibilities with a colleague
  1. Be mindful of your scheduling.

With employee’s sleep schedules impacted and fasting affecting energy levels employees need to be mindful of employees partaking in Ramadan when scheduling tasks, meetings ect.

For example, as the day goes on later the employee’s energy may be depleted therefore avoiding meetings during the afternoon is a good option. As employees are refraining from any consumption during daylight hours lunch time meetings should also be avoided during this time when refreshments are provided.

  1. Encourage open communication.

Never underestimate a simple check-in.

Ramadan can be physically and mentally challenging for those observing the religious obligation however this is the purpose as Muslims show their devotion to Allah by overcoming temptation.

As the month goes on the challenge may become more of a struggle for some therefore adjustments may need to be reviewed as we get later into the month.

Although for employees that are happy with their routine and do not need any further adjustments just a simple check-in can suffice at this time to let them know they have a supportive network available to them should they need it.

If you offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) ensure that employees know that this is on offer and the available services.

  1. Education is key.

Raising awareness is always key to ensuring that the whole team understands each other and their individual needs.

Employers should look to understand all the religious celebrations and their importance to those who practice. Actively encouraging conversations between colleagues and sharing information across the team is key.

When the whole workforce understands what the festival presents to those taking part this means that their peers within the group can offer the best support possible. This is especially important when it comes to avoiding saying or doing anything that could cause upset or make things more difficult for them, even inadvertently.

Fostering an inclusive atmosphere that embraces and understands all religious celebrations is key to a cohesive working team. Not only does this demonstrate to employees that you prioritize wellbeing. But it will also aid the business in the long-run regarding recruitment, retention, and productivity.


Kate Palmer is is the HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula.





Kate Palmer is HR Advice and Consultancy Director at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.
Kate joined in 2009 from a worldwide facility services company where she was Senior HR Manager. Her exploits included providing HR & employment law support to over 30 UK hospitals and dealing with high profile NHS union cases—expertise she now brings to Peninsula clients.
Today, Kate is involved in all aspects of HR and employment law advice.