Ramadan – supporting Muslim colleagues at work

Across the UK, thousands of Muslims will be fasting during daytimes for the next four weeks to mark Ramadan or Ramazan – with many doing it alongside their job.

Ramadan is at a different time each year because Islam uses the lunar calendar. This year Ramadan will last from the end of May until the end 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 about 9pm. That’s 18 hours without food or drink (yes - no water too).

The combination of long hours and hot days can be challenging for many Muslims at work. So we wanted to write about small practical steps colleagues and employers can take to support their Muslim work mates and friends.

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.

Fasting should not interfere with everyday tasks at work. But during Ramadan, 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. 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, or to take a shorter lunch break. Or they may want to make sure they finish on time to be able to break their fast with their 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. It is fine for you to drink and eat in front of your Muslim colleagues, though. They are choosing to fast. There’s no need to apologise, just don't offer food or water to them.

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 is a mosque close by, workers may choose to go there during the day. Employers can help by making sure there is a quiet space in the workplace for prayers, and allowing short breaks.

The last ten days of Ramadan are considered 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. Be prepared for your Muslim colleagues not always to know the exact date, which may have an impact on when they can work and how much notice they can give you. 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 wishes all Muslim trade union members and everyone in the UK who are fasting: Ramadan Mubarak.