Ramadan Working Hours: Doing Business and Supporting Employees during Ramadan
As the month of Ramadan is approaching Muslims will engage in various religious activities during the holy month and organisations are advised to provide and cultivate an inclusive and supportive work environment for their employees.
As the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar in 2021, Ramadan will start on the 13th of April and end on the 13th of May.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset and engage in acts of prayer and charity. Religious observance during Ramadan can disrupt sleep and meal routines which can, in turn, affect work performance levels of employees.
However, it is not straightforward to adopt a general policy assuming all Muslim employees will be observing Ramadan, as some Muslims are exempted from fasting due to health reasons, pregnancy and other maternal considerations, rather employers could encourage employees to discuss with them any impact that could affect their performance and what measures could help them the most.
Here are some guidelines employers can follow to support employees during this period:
Flexibility for Ramadan working hours
Employers could make arrangements for flexible working for their employees during Ramadan. This involves break times, shift durations and shift start and end times. For instance, employees can start earlier or work during lunch break so as to leave earlier to break their fast. Employers can also offer the option of remote working if this is feasible for the role and organisation.
More details on UAE law on Ramadan working hours is in our article here: www.propartnergroup.com/blog/2015/06/uae-working-hours-law-all-you-need-to-know
Eid holiday and annual leave request
The last 10 days of Ramadan are of greater significance to Muslims, however due to the uncertainty of the lunar calendar, employers may receive leave requests on short notice. The culmination of the Month of Ramadan - Eid-el-Fitr is an official three day holiday in the UAE, but employees may request an extension to their leave. Employers, therefore, should try to accommodate as many requests as possible and if they cannot approve of the requests they should justify so on objective reasons and aim to have a discussion with the employee and reach a compromise.
Prayer breaks during Ramadan working hours
Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslims for contemplation and reflection. Thus employers may provide short prayer breaks for religious observance. Shorter regular breaks can allow employees to rest as well since fasting during long working hours can lead to lethargy and irritability. Employers can provide dedicated spaces for employees to pray while maintaining social distancing practices.
Work performance levels
As performance levels for employees may drop significantly during working hours, employers are encouraged to be considerate and not penalise fasting employees for lower productivity rates or assign tasks that require high levels of concentration during the latter part of the day.
Employers need to be sensible when scheduling meetings, training sessions, or other social gathering events that involve food and drink since fasting employees may not be comfortable attending. To avoid such embarrassments employers are encouraged to send emails around to notify staff members that team members will need to be sensitive when scheduling meetings and other events.
These guidelines can be considered in policy implementation as long as they do not adversely affect the business and work.
Due to the current situation with Coronavirus, employers in key sectors like health and social care might not be able to accommodate such flexibility to front-line workers. Nonetheless, there are some best practices that Human Resources and others can adhere to when addressing Ramadan in the workplace:
- If the work is shift based look for changes that can allow fasting employees to swap shifts or change working hours that suit all parties
- Allow ample time for full-time workers to break their fast at sunset, eat properly and pray.
- Ensure that canteens have Iftar and Suhur meals for workers
- Try to avoid evening events even if they were virtual, for most Muslims evenings are a time for prayers and family gathering
- Try to make use of the month of Ramadan as a platform for building and cultivating team dynamics, throw a virtual Iftar and allow people to share stories and part of their lives.
Ramadan is a month for gathering and religious observance, understanding the work experience of Muslim employees and accommodating their particular needs shows good management and helps ensure people perform to the best of their abilities. When employers implement supportive policies that can accommodate these needs it leads to nurturing loyalty, higher staff retention, better morale, more effective teams and greater productivity.
Successful employee management during Ramadan ultimately depends on effective HR management. Here at PRO Partner Group, we provide PRO services and HR, Payroll and Company Secretarial Services. If you need assistance with any of these matters please get in touch with us on +971 (0)4 456 1761 for Dubai or +971 (0)2 448 5120 for Abu Dhabi, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.