For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is one of the most revered months of the year in which they fast during daylight hours, congregate for prayers and share meals as a community. However, this year Muslims will observe the holy month of Ramadan under lockdown and tight restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak that has paralysed entire countries.
With the spread of COVID-19 impacting millions of people worldwide, the holy month of Ramadan, which is scheduled to begin on or around Friday, April 24 in most Arab nations may look very different this year. Islam follows the lunar calendar, which means the dates of Ramadan change every year.
Employers need to be aware of and open to discussing Ramadan and what support or adjustments your employee would like. Managers may experience requests for additional breaks for prayer and annual leave for those observing – be prepared for people to request to take holiday towards the end of Ramadan to celebrate Eid.
Working from home during Ramadan
Employees who are fasting may ask to take their lunch break at a later time to break their fast depending on their work timings, or to enable them to finish work earlier. Employers may be justified in refusing such a request if this conflicts with legitimate business needs which they are unable to meet in any other ways. However, if they are unable to objectively justify such a refusal, this could amount to unlawful indirect discrimination.
It’s important that employers don’t assume that every Muslim colleague will want to do exactly the same thing during Ramadan. Each person will express their faith differently, and our research found that the most important thing is to create a culture where it’s OK to talk about these things, and to listen.
Advice given from authorities:
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised using virtual alternatives, where possible, for social and religious gatherings.
To help with #RamadanAtHome, the Muslim Council of Britain is hosting a number of social and spiritual events on their social media channels.
Likewise, as congregational prayers are banned in several countries, and many mosques have been temporarily closed, many mosques will offer online alternatives, such as video conference platforms or live streaming, as a substitute for the centuries-old tradition.
Additional guidance and key advice have also been issued to NHS managers and staff working in hospitals and healthcare settings to cover adjustments over working hours and fasting arrangements for Muslim colleagues who are not eating or drinking during daylight hours until evening sunset.
Those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms may not have to fast during Ramadan, if they are not physically able. In all cases, it is essential to seek medical advice from your doctor.
For more advice and guidance on any employee or business matters relating to HR issues around COVID-19, please call us on 01792 296178.