“We See You” is an initiative of Sussex Innovation’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group designed to share information and promote understanding and acceptance of our unique differences to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive working environment. In this article, we shine a light on Ramadan, the most sacred month of the year for Muslims. Why is it so important and how can we support our Muslim colleagues during this Islamic holy month?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and it holds significant religious importance for Muslims worldwide. Muslims believe that Ramadan is the month in which the first versus of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, were first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah (God) on the night known as Laylat al-Qadr (‘The Night of Power’).

Throughout the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn until sunset. Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which are the five basic acts of worship that are central to a Muslim’s faith and practice. The others are; the testimony of faith, prayer, charitable giving, and making pilgrimage to Mecca.

Fasting requires Muslims (with some exceptions, e.g. young children, pregnant women, the ill and the elderly) to refrain from eating or drinking any liquids including water, engaging in any intimate activity and smoking cigarettes, from dawn to sunset. Anger, negative thoughts, complaining, swearing, jealousy and gossiping should also be included in the fast.

The practice reminds Muslims of their human imperfections and reliance on God for provisions, demonstrating real hunger and thirst, to develop a sense of compassion and calling to help the poor and needy. It is meant to teach self-discipline and self-control and reduce life’s distractions to afford deep contemplation on one’s relationship with God through increased devotion, and worship, extra prayer and intense study of the Quran, and increased charity and generosity.

The fast begins with the pre-dawn meal called Suhoor (‘the last part of the night’) and ends with the evening meal called Iftar (‘breakfast’), usually shared with family and friends. Iftar is often a joyous occasion, with special food and drink being prepared to break the fast.

Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which follows the solar year, the Islamic calendar follows the phases of the moon. As the lunar calendar year is shorter than the Gregorian calendar year, Ramadan begins 10-12 days earlier each year. Therefore, the dates vary each year and occur in different seasons, rotating through the full cycle of seasons, approximately every 33 Islamic years.

The date for Ramadan each year depends on the sighting of the new crescent moon. This year Ramadan is expected to commence on Sunday 10th March 2024, but depending on the moon, this could be Monday 11th March 2024. Ramadan lasts for 29 or 30 days, and therefore concludes on Tuesday 9th April 2024, with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr (‘Feast of Fast-Breaking’), a festival that marks the end of the fasting period. During Eid al-Fitr, Muslims gather for prayers, give Zakat al-Fitr (charitable donations), and engage in festive activities with family and friends.

Despite not being able to eat or drink for the entire day, most Muslims carry out their normal day to day activities during Ramadan but businesses and schools in many Muslim countries may close or reduce their hours during this period. There are a few key steps employers and colleagues can take to support our colleagues who observe Ramadan:

  • Energy: Working without food and drink during the day is likely to present challenges, so be aware that productivity and concentration levels may be affected, especially toward the end of the day. Be mindful of this impact and consider the colleague’s usual performance levels. Try to be understanding and refrain from any criticism. Remember – there could be a discrimination risk if observing Ramadan causes a worker to be treated less favourably.
  • Flexibility: Consider permitting flexibility of working hours, and location, to minimise the impact on the colleague and the business. Varying hours so that colleagues can start earlier, closer to their pre-dawn meal, and finish earlier, as their energy levels start to deplete could be a supportive step. Could they work more hours from home? What about their duties – could they be varied? For instance, scheduling meetings and training during the earlier part of the day and, where possible, non-urgent projects outside of Ramadan. Also consider a reduction in client meetings and events, particularly those that involve food and drink!
  • Communication: On the point of food and drink, some people may be unaware of Ramadan and the practice of fasting so communication with the team could help prevent a colleague from placing temptation in their Muslim colleagues’ path by inviting them to lunch, offering to grab their lunch while they are out, or even offering them a sweet or glass of water.
  • Holidays: Ramadan may cause a higher than usual number of holiday requests, particularly for time off for Eid al-Fitr. Having a policy that accounts for this and outlines the support and adjustments available to staff during periods of religious observance is recommended. The policy can set out how requests will be managed as it may not be possible to agree to them all. It could also consider the management of bank holidays and permit staff who practice different religions to use them on other days of the year significant to their religion.
  • Get involved: How about going one step further and really making your colleague feel included? We have heard stories of colleagues engaging in fasting with their Muslim colleagues during the working day. Fasting is said to have a host of benefits and many individuals partake in intermittent fasting for health reasons – perhaps the times could be coordinated. Finally, what about extending a greeting to your colleague. Simply saying, “Happy Ramadan” or “Happy Eid” would be a friendly and encouraging greeting. Or, to go the extra mile, consider a common greeting such as ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (“Blessed Ramadan”) or “Ramadan Kareem” (“Have a generous Ramadan”) and, on the last day, “Eid Mubarak” (“Blessed feast”.)

This is a general guide on Ramadan and steps we can take to support our colleagues during this period. The needs of staff will differ and the best way to identify supportive measures is to have a conversation. Creating a culture where staff feel able to approach managers to discuss such matters is important. If you would like further advice, or support, on managing staff and developing inclusive HR policies, please speak with us.


Ing org Ramadan Information Sheet | Ing

Britannica Ramadan | Fasting, Traditions, & Facts | Britannica

Al Jazeera Ramadan 2024: Fasting hours and iftar times around the world | Religion News | Al Jazeera

Vox Ramadan: 9 questions about the Muslim holy month you were too embarrassed to ask