Supporting Muslim employees during Ramadan…
Ash Ahmad (She/Her), ED&I and Wellbeing Consultant | Associate CIPD | Life/Career Coach. Ash is a versatile and accomplished DE&I and Wellbeing Consultant with over 10 years’ experience in a breadth of functions including Diversity & Inclusion, Training & Development and HR. She helps organizations create an inclusive work environment through various training and strategic planning. Diversity and Inclusion topics can be sensitive and triggering and she is known for creating safe spaces where people feel comfortable sharing their experiences without judgment.
Interview by Denise Young, WIL National Diversity and Inclusion Advisor and CEO and Consultant of Tiger’s Eye Advisory Group
With Ramadan starting on April 1st, I was looking on LinkedIN for blogs that would help me understand a bit deeper and to provide simple tips on the “do’s” and “don’ts” I came across an article written by Ash Aham and I reached out to Ash to share her knowledge.
Denise: In your article you wrote, “on most occasions when we say things, our intent is not bad but sometimes the way it comes across or makes a person feel can be quite problematic”. Please explain further.
Ash: Ramadan is a very sacred month for Muslim employees and we feel a sense of pride and gratitude that we are able to participate in this blessed month so when our colleagues say they feel sorry for us for having to fast, it can leave us having to justify why they shouldn’t because we don’t want them thinking bad about our faith.
Denise: Have you experienced doing this and what has helped you to honor yourself and your faith?
Ash; I've definitely found myself doing this in the past and I feel partially it has to do with how Muslims are portrayed in the media which makes me very conscious of making sure I show the true reflection of my faith which is of love, compassion and mercy. So adopting an approach of admiration as opposed to pity would be more beneficial.
Denise: Do all Muslims fast?
Ash: In another one of my articles, I explain that there are certain people exempt from fasting and may not wish to disclose their reasons, therefore it’s important for individuals to educate themselves as to why certain people may not be fasting and not just call them out when they see them eating during the month of Ramadan.
Denise: What can leaders do to support anyone who is fasting?
Ash: There are many things leaders and organisations can do to support those who are observing the month of Ramadan, this may start with acknowledging the month, flexibility around working hours, meeting times, accommodation for time off during Eid. More information about this can be found on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ash-ahmad-b2670b90/
Denise: I feel uncomfortable eating around those who are fasting therefore I do not. Is this the right thing to do?
Ash: One of the purpose of fasting is to abstain from food and drink and that also means when others are eating or drinking in front of you. As Muslims we believe the reward is greater when people around us eat and we aren’t impacted by it, so I honestly don't think people are being polite when they say it’s ok for you to eat in front of them.. The respect is in asking if it's ok, despite you knowing they’re ok and just make sure we aren’t using language like “oh, you’re really missing out here”. Because we believe we aren’t missing out at all, therefore you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about eating in front of us.
Denise: How can a leader support their employees who choose to work through their lunch break to leave earlier?
Ash: It's very easy to say to someone or allow someone to continue working if they’re not eating but showing your employees you care about them and their wellbeing is important. You should encourage them to take regular breaks throughout the day in order to remain well and productive.
On the first or second day it may be ok but eventually they’ll notice their productivity and concentration levels will drop. Also it's a legal requirement in some countries to take a break every 6 hours and even if it's not a legal requirement, it's still good practice to encourage your fasting employees to take a break. If employees are wanting to finish earlier, have a conversation around flexible working for the month, could they start earlier to finish earlier, or take a shorter lunch, or start late in order to get a lie in after being up for prayers during the night.
Denise: What are some simple communication tips to pass along to team members?
Ash: Below is a simple infographic I created with only a few examples but should definitely give you an understanding of how the language we use is key when creating an inclusive work environment.
Connect with Ash:
LinkedIN: Ash Ahmad
Article written by Denise Young, CEO/Founder/Consultant: Tiger’s Eye Advisory Group. Reach out to Denise (email@example.com) if you or your organization is interested in Diversity and Inclusion, Leadership or Communication workshops, Keynotes or Facilitation Services.
Connect with Denise:
LinkedIN: Denise Young