The timing of Ramadan changes each year and this time around it will fall during the summer months. Ramadan can be particularly difficult for Muslim employees who celebrate the festival when it falls during this time of year because it requires fasting during the hours of daylight.
The Equality Act 2010 protects employees against discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. As followers of Islam, Muslims who practice Ramadan receive protection under the Act from all forms of discrimination.
Direct discrimination will occur where an employer fails to make allowances for followers of one religion but does make allowances for others. Indirect discrimination can be harder to identify but will take place when an employer applies a provision, criterion or practice (such as a policy), which on its face applies equally to everyone but which in fact puts or would put those of a particular religion at a disadvantage. An employer has a defence of justification to an indirect discrimination, if it can show that the provision is necessary.
In terms of Ramadan there are some issues which employers should be aware of during this period and in terms of some practical considerations, Howarths would highlight the following.
Job applicants are protected from discrimination in the same way as employees. Employers should therefore accommodate reasonable requests when scheduling interviews. For example, an applicant may wish to have their interview scheduled for the morning rather than the afternoon when they will have been fasting for several hours.
Employees observing Ramadan may see a drop in performance towards the end of the day. Employers should ensure that line managers are aware of the potential impact and are appropriately prepared. That said, whilst employers should be aware of the potential for an impact on performance they do not need to assume that any deterioration is solely down to an employee’s religious observance.
Flexible start and finish times
Because of the fasting requirements, employees may wish to start and finish work earlier as they may feel tired and less productive towards the end of the working day. Similarly, some employees may wish to work during their lunch break so as to be able to leave early. Employers should consider acceding to these requests, but should also ensure that they comply with their obligations under the Working Time Regulations. In particular, staff must have a break of at least 20 minutes during any period of work lasting at least six hours.
Employers should seek to create an environment in which workers feel able to discuss their religious observance with colleagues in an open and frank way. Employees should feel able to tell their colleagues that they are fasting so that colleagues and managers can consider ways in which they can be supported during Ramadan.
Employers may receive more requests for holiday during Ramadan. This could cause operational issues as there may already be pending requesting for annual leave. Employers should make extra effort to allow staff to take this time off when requested. The start of the Eid festival is dependent on the sighting of a new moon, so employees may not always be able to be specific about the exact dates on which they wish to take leave. Employers should be aware of the particular significance of this time and the possibility of holiday requests being submitted or changed at the last minute.
If you would like more information on the matter of Ramadan in workplace or, equality in the workplace more generally then please contact a member of the Employment Law team on 01274 864999.