Many employers don’t know how to observe Ramadan and other religious periods appropriately

Ramadan moon

With Ramadan beginning today, Belief at Work carried out a study considering faith in the British workplace and found that employers are still not able to support their staff during these religious periods.

“We found that people who say they attend a religious service at least once a month answered questions about workplace provisions very differently from everyone else,” says Katie Harrison, director of ComRes Faith Research Centre.

“They were more likely to report that their workplace made provision for religious observance and to say that they would welcome further provision. This is clearly something which varies from person to person, as religious belief and practice is highly personal and everyone has their own way of engaging with their belief. 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 well.”

Practices which many Muslims may follow during Ramadan would include fasting from food and all drinks during daylight hours, praying at certain times throughout the day, not listening to music and giving money to charity. This would influence meeting times, catering and general office environment.

However, the research found that while some businesses do accommodate for their employees sometimes they may go a step too far and in turn embarrass their employees.

“One person told us that he went to a meeting where the organiser was very keen to point out that they had provided halal food on a separate plate and a prayer room just for him,” says Katie Harrison.

“As it happens, although he is a Muslim, he doesn’t eat halal food or pray during the day, and says he felt even more excluded because people had treated him differently from everyone else. It’s important to remember that there is not just one way to practise any religion and each person does things differently, so having thoughtful conversations with colleagues will help determine how best to understand each other and respect people’s beliefs.”