Everyone Managing Religion in the Workplace - Ramadan

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1 Everyone Managing Religion in the Workplace - Ramadan Version 1.3 Owner: Diversity and Inclusion Approved by: Loraine Martins Date issued A Brief Guide for Managers

2 1. Introduction For many of our staff, religious belief is a core part of their identity. Understanding the things that matter to our people and providing the right support helps to keep us safe and inclusive, so that our staff can perform at their best. This guide provides a brief description of Islam and the month of Ramadan, and some information about the considerations we can make as managers and colleagues. Muslim staff may include some, none, or all of the aspects of their religion in their lives. While this guide offers some useful pointers, managers are encouraged to discuss issues of religion with individual staff members. This will help us to understand whether and how their religion impacts on their work. Further guidance on managing religion in the workplace is available on Connect, from a variety of other sources and from the diversity and inclusion team. 2. What is Islam? Islam began in Mecca, Arabia over 1400 years ago and was revealed to humanity by the Prophet Muhammad. Those who follow Islam are called Muslims and they believe that there is only one God Allah, the Arabic word for God. Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over 1 billion followers and approximately 2,700,000 Muslims in the UK. Practicing Muslims will undertake the 5 obligatory prayers at set times each day: between dawn and sunrise; around lunch time; the late part of the afternoon; just after sunset; and at night. The one other obligatory prayer for men is the Friday lunch time prayers which are undertaken in a prayer hall, where a sermon is given by an Imam a religious leader. It is not obligatory for women to pray in congregation or to attend the Friday lunch time prayers, however, women can do either so if they wish. Prior to prayer Muslims need to be clean and so are required to do an Ablution, ie wash their faces, head, arms and feet. The location for prayers must be clean, quiet and the prayers will be done facing the direction of Mecca. 3. What is Ramadan? Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered the holiest month of the year. Muslims believe that during this month, the Qur an, the central religious text of Islam, was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Within this time Muslims atone and seek nearness to Allah, the Muslim name for God. Strictly speaking, since the Islamic calendar is lunar, the precise date will be confirmed only on the first sighting of the new moon. Diversityandinclusion

3 4. What are the obligations in Ramadan? There are five basic Pillars of Islam: the declaration of faith; praying five times a day; giving money to charity; a pilgrimage to Mecca on at least one occasion; and fasting during the month of Ramadan. All adult Muslims must also give up the following things during the hours of daylight: Food or drink of any sort Smoking Sexual activity Fasting is significant because Ramadan is intended to increase self control in all aspects of life. The aim is to be a model human being during the fast, in the hope that the good behaviours will become habits for life. Muslims will therefore try to give up bad habits during Ramadan, and many will pray or read the Qur'an more. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart from worldly activities. Fasting also teaches Muslims to practice empathy for those who are less fortunate and encourages acts of generosity and charity. During Ramadan most Muslims will wake before dawn for a meal and when daylight is over will break the fast with a meal. Alongside fasting, evenings are often spent at a Mosque in congregational prayer. See Section 6 below for further guidance on fasting 5. What are the implications for Managers? Ramadan is of major significance to Muslims and the period of fasting will vary around the country. There are some practical considerations for managers during Ramadan. 5a) Know your team The 2011 Census shows there are 2.7 million Muslims in England and Wales (5% of the population). There are considerable variations in the numbers of Muslims across the country with substantially higher concentrations in a number of urban areas. Muslims are ethnically diverse, 67% coming from an Asian background, including Pakistani (38%) and Bangladeshi (15%). 10% of Muslims are from a Black/African/ Caribbean/Black British background. Diversityandinclusion

4 Forty-two percent of our workforce has told us about their religious beliefs. Of these just under 300 people declared their faith as Muslims. The actual number of staff observing Ramadan is likely to be higher as some Muslims, who may not be observant during the rest of the year, will observe Ramadan. 5b) Raise awareness Making it clear to your team that you are aware that Ramadan is approaching and that you are sensitive to what this means. This will encourage people to come to you if they need support eg an adjustment to their normal working pattern. You can also encourage those with other religious or non-religious beliefs to discuss such matters with you and each other. Raising awareness can have a positive impact on all staff and reduce the risk of misunderstandings or tensions. This can be as simple as talking about Ramadan in your team meetings and offering meetings with anyone who would like to talk about any support they need or issues they might have. 6. General advice about fasting Ramadan represents one of the widest celebrated religious traditions in the world. Literally, Ramadan means self-refraining: It involves not only abstinence from eating, drinking, sexual intercourse during the daylight hours, but also a high control level of one s thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours. The general advice available for employees often depends on the nature of their role. Since different people have differing physical and mental capabilities and possibly varying medical conditions, they themselves can best identify those arrangements which can help them with managing their fasting during working hours without comprising the health and safety of themselves and other relevant individuals e.g. colleagues, customers/clients and the business as a whole. Fasting can have positive effects on an individuals health and wellbeing e.g. psychological well-being, increasing self-control which are not discussed in depth here 6a) Risk Assessments Network Rail has a legal duty to undertake risk assessments to manage the risk from employees fatigue, which is a potential effect of fasting. During fasting periods, an occupational situation which is fairly easily manageable by one person may prove very difficult for another. As such, it is usually the individual who is in the best position to work out a plan, in collaboration with the manager, to assist him or her with Diversityandinclusion

5 fasting during working hours, although the manager can assist substantially, giving the employee as much flexibility as possible for this purpose. This is also in line with the duties set on an employee by section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in relation to managing one s health and safety, and others who may be affected by an employee s acts at work. 6b) Advice for Employees The following are some advisory statements which are likely to be relevant to people who are fasting and working in safety critical roles: Establish when Ramadan is approaching and let your manager know that fasting will be observed. It is highly advisable to let colleagues and managers know that you are fasting They may also be able to help by taking on some of your responsibilities during the fasting period - in return for you helping them on other occasions Ask your manager if they can reschedule very physically demanding tasks after Ramadan. If they cannot, and if the work is extremely physically demanding in very dire environments, consider the Qur an: [2:182] God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you into difficulties [2:187] And whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days, God desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty e.g. not fasting for those days when one is scheduled for such types of work, and doing replacement fasting later It is best to create a dialogue with colleagues or managers about any adjustments you may need. Explain to them that during Ramadan, working through lunch hours, finishing earlier and coming into the office earlier may be preferable. Employers can t always accommodate flexible working requests, but these requests are more likely to be understood if you take the time to discuss the situation. Ask your manager if they will allow you to continue working during lunch time or take a shorter lunch break for praying so that you can leave earlier. Otherwise, ask if you can use part of your lunch break to take a short power nap. If possible, consider working during night and resting during the day. Balance the work day by reserve the morning for intellectually demanding work or tasks that require concentration, and saving routine tasks for later in the day. Plan daily schedules to sleep well, exercise regularly and eat meals at a consistent time. Diversityandinclusion

6 If you feel drowsy before working, take a short nap. If you feel drowsy while working, take a short break and a short nap. Be aware that you can t work through a feeling of tiredness Be alert when working just before sunset which can be the most difficult time during fasting Despite not having a lunch or coffee break, you should still take a break, particularly in fresh air Take one of the possible measures e.g. a short nap, short walk, or use flexible working hours to go home early to cope with the late afternoon, Eat properly during Ramadan, e.g. seek advice on diet such as that provided by the NHS Take responsibility for yourself and others whilst fasting It may be worthwhile for our people who are fasting and who work in safety critical roles to remind themselves of this final point. 6c) Taking advantage of regulations on flexibility at work In the UK, employees are entitled to ask for flexible working from their employers regardless of the underlying reasons for their requests. Some employees may wish to consider this option in order to formalise the arrangements that they wish to have during the fasting period. Within our sector, it is also quite common for colleagues to swap shifts periodically, with their manager s knowledge and agreement, in order to help each other with managing their personal commitments and lifestyles. 6d) Guidelines, practices and policies for Line Managers around fasting We can play a major role in supporting those employees who observe fasting. This can in turn benefit our business. Managers should appreciate that Muslims observing the fast have a longer day than usual. A number of recommendations to managers are: Establish when Ramadan is approaching. Communicate early and openly with your staff, stakeholders and partners on any work schedule implications If possible, make allowances for Muslims to take a break at sunset to break their fast and pray. If possible, arrange with the relevant staff to do night-work i.e. after breaking their fast, and rest during the day. When relevant, allow Muslim staff to work a shorter lunch break in return for an earlier finish. Diversityandinclusion

7 Avoid asking relevant staff to commit to evening functions or to travel away from home for business Consider moving major activities including training events, appraisals, etc. to before or after Ramadan Consider identifying a dedicated place to worship (e.g. a prayer room) for Muslims during Ramadan: while Muslims observing Ramadan need a place to pray throughout the year, it will be even more helpful to provide such a place during fasting times, as this will reduce the physical and mental burden of finding a suitable place when the employees may already stressed due to lack of food and drink Provide access to relevant health and well-being guidance to employees For more information about Diversity and Inclusion visit Connect or the team on Diversityandinclusion

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