Last updated January 2024
The Islamic month of Ramadan commences on March 10, 2024. As per the 2023 census by Pew Research, approximately 18% of Singapore’s population identifies as Muslim. During this period, many Muslims in Singapore will observe day-long fasting and engage in additional prayers. Given Singapore’s diverse society, we must support our Muslim colleagues and employees. Let us refrain from discriminating based on religious beliefs, and instead focus on fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals.
Here is everything you need to know about Ramadan and how it will affect your employees.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, holds great significance as it is believed to be the time when the Prophet Muhammad received divine revelations. This makes it the holiest month of the year.
In the Islamic calendar, each month starts with the sighting of a new moon, which is why the beginning and end of Ramadan vary from year to year. This explains why it may seem like Ramadan is arriving earlier each year. For instance, in 2016, Ramadan commenced on June 6th and concluded on July 5th.
When is Ramadan in 2024?
In 2024, Ramadan is expected to begin in the evening on Sunday, March 10 and end in the evening on Tuesday, April 9 in Singapore.
Eid Al-Fitr, the End of Ramadan
This period marks the end of fasting, and Muslims celebrate it with Eid al-Fitr, also known as Hari Raya Puasa, which is a public holiday in Singapore. This significant event is expected to fall on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. During this month called Syawal, Muslims rejoice in the completion of Ramadan and come together to celebrate.
What Happens During Ramadan?
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims observe a daily fast from sunrise to sunset. This entails abstaining from food, drink, and other consumables like cigarettes and chewing gum. It’s a time for self-discipline, spiritual reflection, and focusing on strengthening one’s faith. While the sun is up, nothing passes the lips, including refraining from negative behaviours like lying, denouncing others, or displaying greed.
At sunset, the fast is broken with a meal called Iftar, coinciding with the evening call to prayer. Traditionally, Iftar is a social occasion where families, friends, and colleagues gather to share a meal. In recent years, the social aspect has seen adaptations and flexibility, with many choosing to celebrate within household units or connecting virtually through technology.
While Muslims pray five times a day throughout the year, Ramadan includes an additional optional late-night prayer called Tarawih. This prayer can be performed at home or in mosques, depending on individual preferences and local regulations.
By observing Ramadan, Muslims embrace self-control, spiritual growth, and community, even if the ways they connect might evolve. It remains a time of deep reflection, devotion, and strengthening connections with faith and loved ones.
Supporting Employees During Ramadan
- Know when Ramadan takes place and who will be observing it
During Ramadan, which is a significant time for Muslims, it is important to openly discuss fasting with your employees. Instead of tiptoeing around the topic, directly ask your employees if they will be fasting and inquire about the best ways to support them.
- Be understanding and keep everyone in the loop
To ensure effective communication and foster understanding, it is important to keep everyone informed and involved. Observing Ramadan can significantly disrupt a Muslim’s daily routine, including sleep and meals. While employees are responsible for their behaviour and performance, it is equally important for colleagues to consider the potential changes in work practices, moods, or schedules during this month.
As an employer, part of your responsibility is to cultivate trust and strengthen team dynamics. Holidays can provide an opportunity to build rapport and improve interpersonal relationships. For instance, you could consider inviting your employees to join colleagues for Iftar and encourage them to share more about their culture.
By fostering a supportive and inclusive environment, you can create a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their religious practices or cultural background.
- Consider flexible working arrangements
Flexitime options can prove advantageous for employees observing fasting during Ramadan and who typically work from nine to six. Some employees may value the opportunity to work through lunch hours and breaks in exchange for an earlier end to their workday. Maintaining open communication between employees and managers is crucial to tailoring suitable arrangements and fostering a positive work environment.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are also implementing partial work-from-home arrangements. You can do the same, either for the entire holy month or on specific days of the week. Many individuals would appreciate the chance to complete their daily workload from home after Iftar. These arrangements not only show respect for the significance of Ramadan but also ensure productivity, nurturing an inclusive and respectful company culture.
- Be considerate about meals and breaks
During Ramadan 2024, it is important to consider the comfort of practising Muslims who may feel uneasy watching others eat and drink while they are fasting. While social distancing measures may not be strictly enforced, it is crucial to maintain sensitivity and awareness. Provide alternative options for communication such as virtual meetings, phone calls, or asynchronous communication to avoid conflicts with meal times. If a meeting is scheduled in the office, consider holding it separately from lunchtime.
If you are unsure whether someone is fasting, politely offer them water or tea, and if they decline, respect their choice. Additionally, allows flexibility for employees to adjust their break times to align with prayer times. Encourage open discussions about needs and preferences regarding breaks, prayer times, and meeting participation. As long as the requests are reasonable, make every effort to accommodate them.
- Schedule high-concentration tasks earlier in the day
During the afternoon, many people, even those who aren’t fasting, may experience a decline in energy. Late nights are quite common during Ramadan. To enhance productivity, it is advisable to schedule tasks that require high levels of focus and concentration in the mornings. This includes planning sessions, strategic meetings, and more.
Throughout the month of Ramadan, fasting employees may experience decreased energy and concentration levels. It is essential to prioritize the health and safety of your team. If there are concerns about an individual’s ability to perform their role while fasting, consider temporarily assigning them to a different position until Ramadan concludes. This is particularly relevant for those working in high-risk environments, such as engineers on construction sites.
- Remember that employees may not be able to commit to evening events
Individuals who are fasting often spend their evenings with family or their community. It is important not to penalize employees who are unable to commit to evening events. If employees need to work after sunset at the office, make arrangements for them to take a break for Iftar. This break should be long enough for them to break their fast, pray, and have a full dinner.
- Make accommodations for Eid al-Fitr
During the festive occasion of Eid al-Fitr, it is common for employees to request additional time off to celebrate and spend time with their families and communities. Similar to the significance of Chinese New Year or Christmas, some individuals may desire to return to their home countries during this time.
Muslims are encouraged to spend nights in the mosque and participate in nightly prayers during the last 10 days of Ramadan. The Night of Power, or Laylat al Qadr, observed on one of the odd-numbered last 10 days of the holy month, is believed to hold special spiritual significance. As a result, some employees may seek more flexible shift times or longer leaves to accommodate their religious observance.
Understanding that the exact day of Eid depends on the sighting of the new moon, it is important to be flexible with employees who may not be able to provide specific dates for their leave requests. Plans may change suddenly due to the uncertainty of these dates. To avoid any potential discrimination claims, it is advisable to make efforts to accommodate these requests and prepare for alternative working arrangements, particularly if April is expected to be a busy month.
Be a Fair Employer
As a responsible employer in Singapore, it is important to respect cultural norms and religious traditions. Establishing a consistent and fair leave policy for all employees is crucial in creating an inclusive, open, and safe working environment while maintaining high productivity among the team.
By considering leave requests and temporary schedule changes during Ramadan in a fair manner, there is no need to fear discrimination claims. Instead, embrace this holy month as an opportunity to distinguish yourself as an employer that genuinely cares about the well-being of its employees.
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