Quick look: Islam is the third largest religion in the U.S., and approximately 3.45 million Muslims live here—which means many people are busy celebrating Ramadan this month! Here’s what SMB employers need to know about the holiday and best practices to help employees comfortably observe it.
Ramadan is a special and popular annual holiday for the 3.45 million 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 honor it best. Here, explore what Ramadan is and several ways employers can celebrate Ramadan 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.
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
Islam is the third largest religion in the U.S., and employers must remain educated on properly celebrating its holidays, like Ramadan, in the workplace. A good place to start is learning more about the holiday and ways to show support to Muslim employees.
Mark your calendar
Employers should note that Ramadan falls at a different time each year, as the Islamic calendar follows the lunar calendar, not the Gregorian one. SMBs should be sure to update their company calendars each year accordingly. During the next few years, Ramadan will occur on the following dates:
- 2023: Wednesday, March 22 – Thursday, April 20
- 2024: Sunday, March 10 – Tuesday, April 9
- 2025: Friday, February 25 – Sunday, March 30
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.
SMBs can 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 their Muslim workers to schedule their 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 fellow employees should be cognizant of food-oriented meetings held during Ramadan. Instead of hosting meetings including a meal, colleagues can consider changing the meeting time or hosting walking or virtual meetings. While it’s not necessarily legally required, showing this consideration is good business practice.
Similarly, during Ramadan, many Muslims’ schedules are busy, and employers should be prepared 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.
To accommodate these needs, employers should provide workers with a safe, private space to pray. 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
SMB leaders 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. Employers 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
Employers aren’t alone in ensuring their workplaces are inclusive, thoughtful, and abiding by all applicable laws. By partnering with a PEO, SMBs can receive assistance with:
- Policy creation and review
- Risk and compliance services
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives
- Employee training on diversity, unconscious bias, and employment laws
- And more
Ready to craft your policies to accommodate Ramadan and show support for your celebrating employees? Contact the experts at ExtensisHR today.