For the next four weeks, thousands of Muslims across the UK will be fasting during daytime to mark Ramadan or Ramazan – with many doing it alongside their job.
Ramadan falls at a different time each year because Islam uses the lunar calendar. This year, Ramadan will last from the middle of May until the middle of June – it continues for 29 or 30 days from when you begin your fast.
This year in the UK, the fasting day is long. The morning meal will be before dawn, around 3am. And people won’t break their fast until around 9pm. That’s 18 hours without food or drink (not even water!).
The combination of long hours and hot days can be challenging for many Muslims at work. That’s why we wanted to write about the small practical steps that colleagues and employers can take to support their Muslim workmates and friends.
First, don’t be shy about asking Muslim colleagues if they will be observing Ramadan. Some people may choose not to take part – perhaps for medical reasons – as fasting is a personal choice.
Ramadan should not interfere with everyday tasks at work, but fasting co-workers may be tired or lacking energy during the day.
Usually the first ten days are the hardest. If you have colleagues who will be fasting, ask them if changing some aspects of work can make it easier for them.
Ramadan isn’t only about not eating or drinking during daylight hours. It usually means rising early and eating late with family and friends, and may mean taking part in charitable activities or late night prayers.
Some workers may ask to change their working day or shift times, to take a shorter lunch break, or to make sure they finish on time so they can break their fast with family or friends. Being flexible may help people work when they are most productive.
During the month, try to avoid holding compulsory team lunches or evening meetings, and don't expect your Muslim colleagues to attend corporate lunches or dinners while fasting.
However, it is fine for you to drink and eat in front of your Muslim colleagues. They are choosing to fast, not you, so there’s no need to apologise – just don't offer them food or water.
Some workers might have additional religious commitments during Ramadan. It may be especially important to perform prayers on time through the week, or to take extra time on Friday afternoons to attend congregational prayers.
If there’s a mosque close by, workers may choose to go there during the day. Employers can help by ensuring there’s a quiet space in the workplace for prayers and by allowing short breaks.
The last ten days of Ramadan are considered to be especially holy. Some Muslim workers might decide to take time off, or ask to change their working patterns to attend all-night prayers.
Eid ul Fitr marks the end of the fasting period. It’s like Christmas for Muslims – the biggest celebration of the year.
There is often some uncertainty about which day Eid will fall because it depends on moon sightings, so be prepared for your Muslim colleagues not to know the exact date.
This may also impact on when they can work and how much notice they can give you, as Eid can last up to three days.
Supporting colleagues during Ramadan is part of building a workplace where everyone is respected and valued. This Ramadan, the TUC would like to wish all Muslim trade union members and everyone who is fasting in the UK: Ramadan Mubarak.