People & Leadership

5 top tips for HR to support employees observing Ramadan

Around 1.6 billion people celebrate Ramadan around the world. Here are five things HR leaders can do to support employees observing it.

Around 1.6 billion people – 20% of the world’s population – celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

In 2023, Ramadan began on 22 March and will end on 21 April, culminating in the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr.

During this period, many Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset and observe religious practices. And they won’t eat food or drink liquids during the day.

They may also adhere to the prayer times more stringently during working hours.

If you have any employees observing Ramadan, here are five helpful tips to support them:

1. Have a policy on religious observance

2. Talk to your teams

3. Be flexible

4. Accommodate annual leave requests

5. Enable prayer time

Put employees at the heart of your approach and policies

1. Have a policy on religious observance

Having a policy on all religious observance during working hours should have a positive impact on employees, while not affecting your business.

In Ramadan, and for other religious events, this may mean being even more flexible with working hours and working from home, even if you have a flexible hybrid work policy in place.

For those who are fasting during Ramadan, you might need to provide more flex for their start and finish times, so they can start and finish work earlier to be home in time to break the fast, or to take a reduced lunch break within legal stipulations and leave early.

Or equally, encourage employees to start and finish later if they are up late at religious gatherings.

It’s also important your policy on religious observance applies to all religions otherwise it will be deemed discriminatory.

Finally, ensure that all your managers are familiar with the policy and how it might affect members of their teams.

2. Talk to your teams

Ask employees observing Ramadan in your company how you can best support them. By putting employees at the heart of your approach and policies, you’re creating a people-first truly listening culture in your company.

Of course, don’t assume that just because an employee is Muslim that they are necessarily observing Ramadan.

However, if they are, don’t assume that they don’t want to be included in office gatherings. They might not be able to eat, but you can give them something to take home with them for when they break their fast, for example.

Don’t feel like you must tip toe around food with employees who are fast.

But it goes without saying not to expect or force employees who are fasting to go to conferences or social events that involve sit down meals if they don’t really need to be there.

The key here is to be open with your team and ensure they’re well informed and understand.

3. Be flexible

Show compassion and understanding to workers whose productivity might lag especially at the end of the day when fasting.

Consider empowering managers to help employees who are fasting manage their workload to do the most important tasks in the morning, or to try to arrange meetings in the earlier part of the day if possible,.

4. Accommodate annual leave requests

In many countries, Christian holidays are a public holiday –but it’s not the same for other religions.

Muslims in your organisation may request some time off at the end of Ramadan for Eid Al-Fitr, which is celebrated for three days.

5. Enable prayer time

During Ramadan, those fasting may also be more observant of prayer times, especially Friday prayers.

Consider giving them short breaks to either go to a local mosque (if there is one nearby) or a quiet space in the office to pray. If you don’t have the latter, consider creating one for the duration of Ramadan.

You may even think about creating a more permanent space or multi-faith prayer room.

Put employees at the heart of your approach and policies

Make sure your policy on religious observance is flexible enough to encompass all religions.

83% of HR leaders say employee experiences will continue to be more of a focus for HR, our latest research found.

Putting support in place for your employees observing religious events such as Ramadan is just one way you can make steps towards this and elevate your employee experiences for everyone.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in February 2023 and has been updated for relevance.