With Ramadan starting this week, BDBF Associate, Theo Nicou, considers the Muslim Council of Britain's report which provides recommendations on what employers can do to provide a more inclusive work environment for Muslim staff.
What adaptations can employers implement for Ramadan?
- Discuss Ramadan with Muslim staff to gain an understanding of their routines during the holy month and explore simple changes like holding meetings in the morning or early afternoon
- Consider letting staff finish earlier if they are working through any break times.
- Look at how staff can use two days annual leave to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha festivals, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan and Hajj.
- Look into the possibility of establishing a simple flexitime system that would allow for prayers to be offered. Friday prayers offered in congregation are especially important.
What cultural considerations should employers be aware of and what everyday adaptations can they make?
- Employers should be aware of cultural differences around handshaking and direct eye contact. The placing of a hand on heart (instead of a handshake between genders) in greeting is practiced in many Muslim communities and seen as a highly respectful act, as is Muslim men lowering their gaze when interacting with women, another marker of utmost respect and means of maintaining a modest disposition.
- Take into consideration how dress codes and uniforms can incorporate headscarves should a Muslim member of staff wear it and provide hair nets or masks if there are health and safety considerations regarding beards.
- Look into including halal and/or kosher (as it is also permissible for Muslims to eat) food and vegetarian dishes in canteens or whenever food or snacks are provided for staff.
- Offer a range of activities designed to appeal to everyone, dedicated to building rapport between staff from different backgrounds. Muslim staff may not socialise in pubs, for example, so consider events in the social calendar that will accommodate for this difference in sensibilities.
Inclusivity is key to ensuring a happy and productive workforce. A number of the above practical changes are easy to implement but could go a long way to foster a more welcoming work environment for Muslim staff, which is ever more important as we move towards a return to the office.
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