How to approach Ramadan as an employer

In 2024, Ramadan begins on 11 March and ends on 8 April. Some business owners fast during Ramadan. Those who do not should consider what Ramadan means for their employees. For example, what are your obligations to your staff during Ramadan? How do you make sure Ramadan and work fit alongside each other? We speak to 2 business owners who are fasting this year. They explain things you can consider and how to be a better employer during Ramadan.

Employers are not obliged to provide employees with extra benefits or to adjust their work times during Ramadan. But if you pay attention to the needs and well-being of fasting employees, your staff will feel better about their work. It can even build stronger bonds between the whole team.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. Muslims around the world observe Ramadan, although each person experiences it differently. Some choose to reflect on their behaviour. Others consider their contribution to society. It is a spiritual experience during which participants abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan concludes with the feast Eid al-Fitr.

Legal matters

There is no legislation in the Netherlands about employers and Ramadan. But as an employer, it is good to keep some things in mind:

  • The Equal Treatment Act states that an employer must not forbid their employees from praying at work.
  • An employee has the right to take a break at work.
  • An employer cannot refuse a request from an employee to take a day off if it is for a religious holiday. For example, Eid al-Fitr.

Tips for Ramadan

Adjusting working hours during Ramadan is a common tip (in Dutch). But why? And what else can you do? According to Said, the owner of Spa Nova, and Bouchra Boukrab of the website, understanding and respect already set the right tone. Here are their Ramadan tips for employers.

Ask what you can do

A good way to show understanding and respect for your fasting staff is simply to ask, what can I do for you? “Most employers do not think about Ramadan until it has started,” explains Said of Spa Nova. “It is to an employer’s credit if they think about it before. But everyone is different and every Muslim participates in Ramadan in their own way. Some prefer to start work a little later in the morning. Others appreciate a quiet area or prayer room. An employer who asks about the employee’s needs before Ramadan shows they are interested and take it seriously.”

Adjust working hours

Said participates in Ramadan each year, as does most of his team at the spa. “We have many employees from different cultural backgrounds, including Muslims who fast. In my experience, most fasting Muslims get up early and eat just before sunrise. That makes the mornings the most difficult. It is nice if you can start a little later. We are a private spa and our working hours are later in the day – compared to a shop, for example. But if your business starts very early, consider asking your non-fasting employees to work the early shifts during Ramadan.”

Set aside times for prayers

“Muslims must pray 5 times per day,” says Boukrab of “Praying must happen at certain times, so your employee may want to pray during working hours. Prayer times can also vary per area. You can find out more on the Al-Yaqeen website (in Dutch). Employees appreciate employers taking this into account.”

Offer a prayer room

Boukrab also has advice about a prayer room. “Create a quiet area that both Muslims and non-Muslims can use for whatever reason. Maybe to pray, for a moment of reflection, or to relax away from the hustle and bustle of work. It does not need to be a large space. A small room will do. If no space is available, allow your employee to pray at a local mosque.”

Organise a meal together

A final piece of advice from Boukrab: “The meals that people eat after sunset during Ramadan are called iftars. When several employees are fasting, organise a joint iftar. Non-muslims can also join to eat and learn more about Ramadan.”

Consider Eid al-Fitr

Ramadan concludes with Eid al-Fitr. The corona measures have limited possibilities in recent years, but mosques are open and people can come together again. Boukrab notes that some Muslims work on this day. But many take time off in the morning to attend the special Eid prayer at the mosque. Employers can show that they are thinking of their staff by asking what they would like to do on this day.