Get paid up to $18,750 for your referral to ExtensisHR!   Start Referral Close

Ramadan in the Workplace: Best Practices for Employers

Quick look: In 2024, Ramadan falls between March 10 and April 9, and with approximately 3.45 million Muslims in the U.S., many people are busy celebrating the holiday this month. Here’s what employers need to know about accommodating Ramadan in the workplace and supporting employees so that they can comfortably observe it.

Ramadan is a special and popular annual holiday for the millions of Muslims living in America. Islam is the third largest religion in the U.S., and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may wonder how to respectfully acknowledge it. Here, learn what Ramadan is, potential Ramadan work accommodations, and strategies for employers to foster a sense of inclusivity in the workplace.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is observed by Muslim people worldwide as they fast, pray, reflect, and focus on their communities. The month is celebrated as the time during which the Quran, the holy book for Muslims, was revealed.

Self-restraint and self-reflection are cornerstones of Ramadan, and the month-long fast—which all healthy adults typically complete—is viewed as a way to cleanse one’s soul and empathize with the less fortunate. The fast occurs daily from dawn until sunset and includes abstaining from food and drink. Some Muslims also restrict distractions such as watching television or listening to music.

With a focus on giving back to the community, many Muslims spend time during the month of Ramadan completing acts of charity and attending late-night prayer sessions called Taraweeh.

Between fasting and a potentially altered sleep schedule, it can be common for Muslim people to experience dehydration, fatigue, headaches, and more during Ramadan. There are several things SMBs can do to help keep their Muslim employees comfortable, engaged, and productive.

How to celebrate Ramadan at work

Since Islam is so prevalent in the U.S., it can be helpful for employers to remain educated on properly celebrating the religion’s holidays, like Ramadan, in the workplace. A good place to start is learning more about the holiday and ways to show support to Muslim colleagues.

Mark your calendar

Ramadan falls at a different time each year, as the Islamic calendar follows the lunar calendar, not the Gregorian one, so SMBs should be sure to update their company calendars each year accordingly. During the next few years, Ramadan will occur on the following dates:

  • 2024: Sunday, March 10 – Tuesday, April 9
  • 2025: Friday, February 28 – Sunday, March 30
  • 2026: Wednesday, February 18 – Thursday, March 19

Once your calendars are marked, consider sending an annual holiday greeting email commemorating Ramadan just as you might for Christmas or Hannukah.

Offer accommodating schedules

It can be very beneficial to Muslim employees if their employers provide flexible scheduling during Ramadan, if possible. Working an entire day without eating or drinking can be difficult, and nighttime prayer and charity events mean workers’ schedules are jam-packed.

For employees with a typical 9-to-5 schedule, this could look like allowing workers to create a custom schedule where they work from home or come into work after Suhoor (the meal consumed in the early morning before fasting begins) and leave the office earlier than usual. Employers can also consider letting those who celebrate work through their lunch break and go home early.

Business leaders may also consider providing flexibility to employees who don’t work a typical 9-to-5 workday. In addition to the early-morning Suhoor meal, Muslims break their fast with a meal at sunset called Iftar. Employers should allow Muslim workers to schedule shifts around these important mealtimes if possible. Not only does this show respect for the employee’s religion, but workers may be more productive after eating a meal and prefer to work in the morning after Suhoor or at night after Iftar.

Be mindful of meetings

Most practicing Muslims fast during the traditional workday, and employers and coworkers should be aware of food-oriented meetings held during Ramadan. Instead of hosting meetings including a meal, colleagues can perhaps move the meeting time or host walking or virtual meetings. While it’s not legally required, showing this consideration is good business practice.

Similarly, during Ramadan, many Muslims’ schedules are busy, and employers should prepare to field requests to be excused from attending conferences and off-site training sessions during the month. Failure to comply could result in accusations of direct or indirect religious discrimination. SMBs can consult with the risk and compliance experts at their professional employer organization (PEO) to confirm they are acting lawfully.

Provide proper prayer spaces

Did you know that even outside of Ramadan, some Muslims pray five times daily? These prayers typically take 5-10 minutes to complete and take place at specific intervals during the day.

Even if an employee doesn’t complete these prayers during the remainder of the year, some Muslims become more religious during Ramadan, and employees may be looking for a prayer space in the workplace for the first time.

Employers should provide workers with a safe, private, dedicated prayer space to accommodate these needs. Allowing employees to book a meeting or wellness room for 15 minutes can suffice, or employers could permit them to visit a local mosque during prayer times.

Offer adequate PTO

Whether your Muslim employees are adjusting to their new eating and sleeping schedules or have plans with their family, friends, and communities, offering them flexible paid time off (PTO) is important.

In addition to the festivities during the month, Muslims also celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. A joyful, relaxing event, the day is typically spent eating, praying, and exchanging gifts with loved ones.

It’s critical that employers allow Muslim workers to take off work to celebrate this significant holiday. SMB leaders should consider offering floating holidays so that employees can take the days off that are most important to them, even if the office isn’t closed. A PEO partner can help you craft a floating holiday policy that supports all your employees.

Have a conversation

Employers don’t need to wait until a Muslim employee submits a Ramadan-related request to discuss the holiday—they can show they care and proactively start the conversation. Business leaders can let employees know before Ramadan begins that if they celebrate, they have flexible scheduling, prayer spaces, and religious PTO available to them. And, of course, colleagues should feel welcome to wish Muslim employees a Happy Ramadan by saying, “Ramadan Mubarak.”

Celebrate with certainty

Ensuring your organization is thoughtful and abiding by all applicable laws is a significant feat. However, you’re not alone in designing and maintaining an inclusive workplace. By partnering with a PEO, your business can receive assistance with:

Supporting Ramadan in the workplace can benefit your company in several ways. For instance, recent research shows that over half of U.S. workers feel that a company’s DEI programs play a key role in their decision to work there or not, and impactful DEI strategies act as a catalyst for increased employee retention and engagement, more effective recruiting, a higher level of innovation, improved decision-making, and more.

When was the last time you evaluated your DEI and compliance policies? We can help. Contact the experts at ExtensisHR today.

Back to Top

Our expert advice, direct to your inbox.