Taj Stores owner Jamal Khalique is one of many Muslim-owned retailers feeling the pinch in Britain this Ramadan
Taj Stores owner Jamal Khalique is one of many Muslim-owned retailers feeling the pinch in Britain this Ramadan. Photo: AFP / Susannah Ireland AFP News

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and the holy month of fasting, began on March 10 and will finish on April 9. The end of the Ramadan period will be celebrated with Eid Mubarak, set to take place on April 10 and 11.

While Muslims all over the globe will be observing the moon and taking part in the annual month of fasting, their lives will not be put on hold. Millions of people may need help to balance their religious practices and work commitments during this period.

According to the most recent data published by the Office for National Statistics, in 2021, 3.9 million people in the UK identified as "Muslim" – up by 4.9 per cent since 2011.

Due to religious practice being protected under the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, Rhys Wyborn, an employment expert at the law firm Shakespeare Martineau, recognised that many Muslim employers are unaware of their right to legal entitlements that can support them throughout Ramadan.

"It is important that working hours are kept under review for employees observing Ramadan. While there is no legal right to a variation in hours due to religious belief, employers should be flexible and open to discussion with their staff, accommodating employee requests where possible," Wyborn said.

Muslim employees must not be treated less favourably because they are fasting, the employment expert noted, going on to argue: "Employers should also be aware of arranging meetings where food might be present and give thought to ensuring there are onsite facilities where Muslim employees can pray without disruption if required."

This news comes after the Michaela Community School in Brent, North London, was hit with legal challenges over its religious rules and regulations in January this year.

A Muslim student, who requested anonymity, took her school's governing body, the Michaela Community School Trust, to court for discriminating against those who are entitled to a religious space.

The court case was launched after a group of Muslim students were not allowed to bring prayer mats into the school and faced abuse from passers-by who spotted the group kneeling on their coats to conduct their religious practices in the playground.

The students' lawyers argued that the ban on prayer for all religious pupils "uniquely" affects Muslim students because they are obligated to pray five times a day.

Regarding the Ramadan fast being "physically and mentally challenging", leaders should support their acquaintances during this time, said Jim Moore, an expert in employee relations at HR consultants Hamilton Nash.

While speaking to The Mirror, Moore added: "This could involve letting employees adjust their hours, allowing for more flexibility around breaks during the day, or allowing some work from home. These don't have to be permanent arrangements but will send an important signal to staff from different ethnic and religious backgrounds."

While the Working Time Regulations 1998 law dictates that workers are allowed to take one 20-minute break every six hours, employers have been told to encourage their Muslim employees to take shorter breaks throughout the day.

The employee relations expert noted that staff members overseeing Ramadan should request flexible work arrangements as soon as possible.

Moore advised that the workers should provide their bosses with a written request.

"An employee has the right to request flexible working arrangements if they have 26 weeks' service, although the Government proposes making it a right from day one. The employer has three months to respond to the request, and while they are not obliged to agree to the request, they will need to justify a refusal," he said.