Australia’s workforce is rich and diverse, and includes employees from more than 270 different cultural backgrounds – in turn, an array of employee cultural and religious considerations need to be taken into account.
According to the 2011 census figures, there are almost 500,000 people in Australia who identify themselves as Muslim. The sacred month of Ramadan begun on Friday 20 July and is one which could impact on HR professionals nationwide. It officially runs until Saturday 18 August.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered sacred because it was the month that Mohammad received his revelations about the Quran. Over the course of the month, Muslims maintain a strict fast every day, from the break of dawn until sunset, to honour their god. Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated at the end of the month to mark the end of fasting.
According to a recent update on the Human Rights Commission's Religious Diversity Network, while Muslims need to continue the normal routine of their life during Ramadan, it can be useful for them to reschedule their work hours or the type of work they do to take into account lowered energy levels due to fasting.
To assist HR professionals in accommodating Ramadan, consider:
Some Muslim employees might request periods of time off over Ramadan and/or for Eid-ul-Fitr. It is best practice to ensure it is understood that any leave taken constitutes holiday or, if more appropriate, special, unpaid leave.
The energy and productivity of some employees could be affected by Ramadan fasting. This means it could be a good idea to come up with alternative and/or flexible ways to support them. For example, you might consider adjusting their hours of work, work duties and/or break times.
When fasting, Muslims are supposed to avoid being in the vicinity of people who are having meals. They are also supposed to pray more than usual during Ramadan. Try to provide a quiet, private space (like an unused office) for fasting Muslims to pray and take their breaks in.
The increased-prayer requirement might lead to an employee wishing to take more breaks than usual. It could be a good idea to accommodate this – but perhaps ask them to make up any extra time up at a later date.
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