In accordance with workplace diversity, it is the employer’s responsibility to respect a whole host of different religious holidays and observances.
The most recent religious observation is Ramadan, taking place between 26th May and 24th June. During this time, Muslims adhere to a fast; limiting themselves to food and drink only between dawn and dusk. It is estimated that over 4 per cent of the UK population fasted in 2017 and a selection of those will also follow other obligations such as praying.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it against the law for employers to treat an employee less favourably because of their religion or belief. This can be both direct and indirect. Direct is where employers dismiss, refuse promotion to or deny training because of their religion and indirect may be where an employer’s procedures have an adverse effect on particular religious groups.
For employers, it can be difficult to understand how to best accommodate those observing Ramadan. Here are some tips to ensure your procedures aren’t having an adverse effect on the Muslim faith throughout the religious festival:
Religious observance and employment policies
It is wise to put policies in place that allow for religious observance. As some Muslims will wish to pray five times a day, creating a temporary prayer room for those who may wish to use it can be valued.
Employers should consult with employees on what is considered reasonable but they should provide appropriate locations. However, a balance needs to be struck between allowing observation and ensuring it doesn’t impact on productivity.
During Ramadan, observers may well be short on energy. Instead of an hour-long lunch break, employers should be flexible and allow a higher number of shorter breaks to be taken throughout the day, if that’s what the employee desires.
Flexibility may also be necessary in starting and finishing times. It needs to be made clear that these changes are temporary in nature to avoid future dispute.
Annual leave for Eid
The end of Ramadan marks Eid, the Islamic holiday. It is on this day that employers will be inundated with holiday requests. Employers should be as supportive as possible when accepting annual leave requests, particularly because the majority of Christian holidays are bank holidays.
Employers should have a policy on religious holidays
These plans will need to be put in place before the Ramadan begins. Find out how many of your team will be observing Ramadan, and in what way. From here you will be able to decide what procedures to put in place and how much impact the religious observance will have on your business.
It is for the employer to decide if they implement any of these suggestions and on what scale. But businesses must ensure that employees are not disadvantaged by their observance.
Employment law specialist
If you need help in understanding how to protect yourself and put in place procedures to prevent any indirect breaches of law, contact our specialist employment team using the telephone numbers below: