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An Employer’s Guide to Ramadan: Support, Etiquette and Greeting Employees

In Islamic tradition, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is commemorated every year by Muslims who fast or abstain from eating or drinking during the day. 

Ramadan is an important celebration for Muslims around the world. It marks the month that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, and Muslims usually connect deeper to their faith during this time through a combination of fasting and prayer. As many of your employees may be celebrating Ramadan in this way, it can help to show your understanding and appreciation for the religious practice. In this article, we will explore some of the key ways you can offer support to your employees during this time by:

  • Developing an understanding of what Ramadan is and what it means to the Muslim community.
  • Learning more about how you can show support for others in the workplace during Ramadan.
  • Following proper etiquette and what to say when greeting employees during this time.
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What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the holiest month in Islam, as it marks the period in which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. In order to connect more deeply with Allah, many Muslims practise fasting and praying for the entire month of Ramadan. As this month falls on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, this means that the date of Ramadan can change from year to year. Muslims mark the end of Ramadan with a feast called Eid al-Fitr [pronounced EID-ul-FITR-ur], which not only commemorates the end of Ramadan but also gives thanks to Allah. 

Ramadan is a time when Muslims might try to practise good deeds and charity, which can involve making donations, participating in charitable events and serving those in need.

How can you support employees during Ramadan?

Ramadan falls during the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar and is typically a month of fasting for many Muslims. Those who fast might abstain from eating food and drinking liquids each day from sunrise to sunset. It is common to have one meal known as the Suhoor just before sunrise and an evening meal known as Iftar after sunset.

In addition to fasting, Muslims will also spend most of their evenings in a special supererogatory prayer called Taraweeh, which is usually performed in a congregation at a mosque. Many Muslims may also engage in prayer in the middle of the night called Tahajjud.

Fasting at work or forgoing sleep may cause some employees observing Ramadan to be less energetic or quieter than normal while others may find Ramadan fasting to be very beneficial to their mental focus and energy levels. It is important for employers to understand how they can support Muslim employees during Ramadan.

According to the ONS approximately 6 per cent of the UK’s population is Muslim. Not all companies have a policy which involves supporting Muslim employees during Ramadan. However, there are several ways that managers can support their employees during Ramadan. These can include:

Offer flexible scheduling

Flexible scheduling is a favourite perk among employees of all types, as it helps individuals establish a healthy work-life balance. That’s especially true during Ramadan. Acknowledging that some of your employees may be praying or fasting during the day can also be useful here. 

Those celebrating Ramadan might choose to start work earlier in the day, even shortly after sunrise, when they’re more energised and have recently eaten. Take this into consideration when scheduling team or individual meetings. Also when Ramadan falls in the summer months it can be particularly challenging for some as the days are longer.

A shift in schedule may allow individuals to leave early and go home and rest if their energy wanes. It also allows them to prepare for any breaking of the fast, which might be done in a community, with family members or others.

Be thoughtful with food offerings 

If you plan to offer perks such as free food in recognition of a job well done, you might want to plan around major religious fast days. That way, you are not inadvertently leaving certain people out of the celebration.

When there isn’t an option to schedule luncheons or other events around known fast days, consider ways you can honour individual commitments to fasting without leaving anyone out. You might offer options for taking part in food celebrations after sundown, for example, or invite individuals who are fasting to make to-go plates they can enjoy later.

Offer assistance and accommodations

Treat requests for accommodations with thoughtfulness and empathy. Reach out to your human resources team for guidance when you are uncertain how to respond to a request. It’s important that you avoid asking people if they are fasting but rather create a safe space for them to share and raise concerns.

Create a safe space

If members of your team observing Ramadan feel comfortable discussing their faith, be open to learning about the observance from them to increase awareness and support from others on the team.

Provide food-free break locations

When possible provide a food-free break room where people who are fasting won’t feel inclined to want to eat during their breaks. They can have a rest without smelling food or drink otherwise present in break rooms.

Allow people to take time off

Some of the members of your team who observe Ramadan may want to take some time off during their fasting time. Accommodating time off at this important time for them when possible can contribute to their quality of life.

Ramadan etiquette

There are some important tips to consider during Ramadan:

  • Eer on the side of caution if you don’t know whether an employee celebrates Ramadan or not. Be careful not to make assumptions about who in your team may be observing Ramadan, Islam is a faith that welcomes people of all races and backgrounds. 
  • Observing Ramadan may not be noticeable so make it easy for your team members to let you know if they are fasting.
  • Don’t assume that all Muslim employees will be fasting during Ramadan (there are exemptions such as pregnancy, for example)
  • Make time to speak to any of your team who are observing Ramadan to find out how you can support them and discuss any adjustments they may need. 
  • Acknowledge that fasting affects people in different ways and show understanding. For example some people may be less energetic or tired at times.

Keep Ramadan and all of your yearly celebration messages friendly yet still professional and use inclusive language that’s respectful to all employees.

What is an appropriate greeting during Ramadan?

One of the ways you can help employees feel supported during Ramadan is to offer a Ramadan message or greeting. If your colleague has been open with you about their faith you could do this via email, in conversation or during meetings. Acknowledging Muslim employees is one way to show support and display an inclusive workplace culture.

Below are some best practices when it comes to etiquette.

Open with Ramadan Mubarak

In English, ‘Ramadan Mubarak‘  [Pronunciation – ruh-muh-DAWN moo-BAH-ruk] translates to ‘Blessed Ramadan’. You can also say ‘Happy Ramadan’, as it holds a similar meaning, and this is usually accepted from non-Muslims by Muslims as an appropriate greeting. Ramadan Mubarak is the easiest and simplest way to provide a Ramadan message, and you can use it in conversation with employees. You can also use it to open a message in an email. Similarly, you can also use Ramadan Kareem [Pronunciation – ruh-muh-DAWN KAR-eem], which translates to ‘have a generous Ramadan’.  

Personalising your Ramadan message

It is important that your Ramadan message be personalised. Whether your message is via email or in person, acknowledging and celebrating Ramadan is a way of recognising the connection between your employees personal life and workplace life and how they impact each other.

As an employer, you may also want to send a message to all employees recognising Ramadan. Ramadan is a sacred period of observation for many employees so it’s useful for employers and employees alike to be respectful and considerate to those who observe. Whether it is in conversation or via an email to employees, consider talking about the importance of Ramadan. For example you may want to include a guide for managers about Ramadan: when it is, what it is, why it’s important for Muslims and advice for managers and employees.

 

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