As Ramadan begins millions of Muslims will start a month of fasting, foregoing food and drink between dawn and sunset. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and, although fasting is usually the primary association with Ramadan, this month involves a lot more than refraining from food and water. Extra prayers, late nights, charitable actions and a further emphasis on patience and virtue are all part of this holy month.


The basic requirement is for all Muslims to fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting means that no food, no drinks (including water!), smoking or anything else is consumable during the hours of sunrise and sunset.  The fast is broken at sunset and Muslims will spend most of their evenings in a special prayer.


With this all in mind, it is reasonable for employers to expect workers’ performance to be affected to some extent; Muslim workers may become a little irritable or slightly tired, particularly in the afternoons, during Ramadan. It would be sensible for employers to therefore make appropriate accommodations where the job allows. Employers who accommodate Muslim workers during this time help ensure they perform to the best of their abilities. Having policies in place can lead to better morale, understanding and greater productivity.


When is Ramadan?


The dates of Ramadan change each year. In 2018, it will commence on or around Wednesday 16 May 2018, depending on when the new moon is first sighted.  It lasts for 29 or 30 days and ends with the 3 day celebration of Eid-Ul-Fitr where Muslims go to the mosque for a special prayer in the morning.


Things to consider during Ramadan

  • It is sensible for employees to inform their managers of the fact they are fasting
  • It would be helpful if staff are made aware of when Ramadan is, how long it lasts, and what the fasting entails. Work lunches and away days should be carried out with special arrangements for those who are fasting if unavoidable.
  • Colleagues may want to avoid offering food and drink to those who fast if sharing food with other colleagues, or eating during meetings.
  • If staff operate under shift-work, employers should see what changes can be made to suit all involved (e.g. swapping shifts or changing their working hours).
  • Make special allowances for Muslims to take a break at sunset to break their fast if they happen to still be at work. They should be given sufficient time to break their fast, pray and then eat properly.
  • Fasting may affect people in different ways and understanding managers and colleagues can be very helpful.
  • Many Muslims also wish to pray more often during Ramadan, typically for a few minutes two or three times a day. Employers should think of providing a quiet and private space for workers to pray.
  • Although breaks should be kept, a shorter lunch may make it easier for an employee to manage their workload if they wish to take time off to carry out any additional prayers or worship.
  • A considerable portion of annual leave may be used by employees during Ramadan.
  • Eid-Ul-Fitr is a three-day festival to mark the end of Ramadan. Employers should expect Muslim workers to also seek annual leave at this time.

Amirah Butt is a Paralegal in the Employment Team at Lamb Brooks. If you feel you have been affected by issues raised in this article or need advice on any other employment matter, call our Employment Team today on 01256 305574.


The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.