Ramadan at work

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Muslims are twice as likely to stick with employers who are supportive during Ramadan

Ramadan is the holy month of fasting for many of the world’s Muslims, including the 3.3 million living in the UK. Muslims are required to abstain from eating food and drinking water during the daylight hours. The fast is meant to be both a spiritual and physical challenge — one that isn’t made any easier whilst continuing to manage the responsibilities of their families and their 9 to 5.

It is in this latter point in which Muslim Census wanted to gain insight. We have surveyed 523 working Muslims in the UK to understand more about the experiences of Ramadan whilst at work. With Muslims employed in companies across all sectors, the findings emphasise the importance for all employers to consider their approaches to support Muslims during Ramadan.

What is the benefit of support?

The impact of a supportive working environment cannot be ignored. From our sample, the findings reveal that if Muslims feel their workplace is supportive in Ramadan, they are twice as likely to stay at their current place of employment for 5 years or more.

Overall, within our sample, 65% of Muslims felt that their place of work was supportive during the month of Ramadan. Of this group, 56% then said they were likely to stay at their place of employment for the next 5 years. In contrast, of those who said their workplace was not supportive, only 28% said they were likely to stay. This highlights a strong correlation between workplace support and retention rate.

One of the most effective ways of supporting Muslims in the workplace is by championing the Muslim Network within the company. Half of our sample stated that they have a Muslim Network at their workplace.

Of those that have a Muslim Network, 67% stated that their workplace extends gestures to increase the awareness of Ramadan. This was mainly through internal emails or articles, and webinars. However, for those that stated they do not have a Muslim Network, just 16% noted that their workplace increases awareness during Ramadan.

This large disparity emphasises just how important it is for employers to have employee networks that represent faith, ethnicity, gender and other traditionally under-represented groups. Those leading these groups will understand how best to support their members, as shown resoundingly within our findings.

What would Muslims like?

Fasting in Ramadan can be incredibly difficult and its impacts vary from person to person. In a video for the Huffington Post, Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association, spoke of the experiences she has had fasting in a Non-Muslim office. She points out that fasting can become even more difficult if colleagues are unaware of Ramadan. So what do Muslims themselves think would help?

We asked our sample ‘what would you like to have that would help you whilst at work during Ramadan?’ and the majority at 99% had at least one request.

The most desired adjustment was to have the option of flexible shift patterns. Second to this was to have team members that understood what Ramadan was, and what it meant to the individual themselves.

Other changes mentioned include: Taking annual leave for the final days and Eid, reduced hours, regular breaks, and working from home (if not already). Changes such as these have been recommended to workplaces by ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).

One participant praised their company, stating, “my colleagues are very considerate of me. They won’t eat in front of me, so they are very respectful. I’ve always started [my shift] later too and they’ve never had a problem with this”.

Noticeably, however, although 99% of our respondents would like some form of support during Ramadan, only 41% of people have agreed on some kind of workplace adjustment with their employer so far. This suggests a massive disparity between what adjustments Muslims would like, and what they are currently getting.

The struggle of confidence for Muslim women

We found that Muslim women were 40% less comfortable asking for Ramadan adjustments compared to men. Overall, only 50% of participants stated they are “somewhat comfortable” or “very comfortable” in asking for slight adjustments.

A recent report highlighted that workplace habits are making Muslim colleagues uncomfortable. These environments are potentially growing a lack of confidence amongst Muslims when it comes to asking for a greater degree of empathy to practising their faith.

In detail, for men, 23% selected ‘somewhat uncomfortable’ or ‘very uncomfortable’ to the question ‘How comfortable are you to ask your place of work for changes?’ compared to a significantly higher 39% for women. There are many underlying reasons as to why this gap exists but potentially above all, it is no secret that the workplace is not descriptively representative. Women, including non-Muslim, not being represented in the workplace and managerial positions makes it much harder for them to comfortably explain a desire for any adjustments.

Conclusions

The findings bring to light the benefits of supporting Muslims during Ramadan and thus we hope this encourages employers to take the steps to further support their Muslim colleagues. We also hope Muslims identify that wanting an adjustment for Ramadan is not uncommon and that they can feel comfortable in making these requests.

Championing diversity and inclusion are paramount to companies across all sectors. According to a Glassdoor survey, the majority of women and ethnic minority respondents named workforce diversity as one of the key considerations when looking for a role.

If employers want to retain the best of the Muslim talent pool, supporting during Ramadan is one way of doing exactly that. 

523 responses were collected via an online survey shared during the dates 15th-24th March. This study was sponsored by CUBE Network, a leading umbrella organisation connecting Muslim professionals across several sectors. To see the breakdown of the findings, please see here.

This post was written by Ammar Husain and edited by Sadiq Dorasat. To get in touch with us, please visit our contact page.