Ramadan will start this year in the evening on Friday, April 1. Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. It is a very important holiday observed by Muslims around the world. In your workplace, you may have colleagues who are observing Ramadan. When you chat with these team members, it’s important to use inclusive language. You may think that you’re saying something innocuous and supportive, but it could be unintentionally offensive. Below, we’ll discuss some of the most common phrases you may use during Ramadan that can be insensitive and suggestions for what to say instead.
If your coworker is fasting:
You might have said… “Fasting for a month? That sounds awful!”
As Ramadan is a holy month, and fasting is a part of observing the holiday, this is not the right way to address it. Instead, try a more positive stance. You could try saying, “I admire your commitment to your faith, and I hope the experience is meaningful.” You can also ask your coworker if there’s anything you can do to make Ramadan easier. For example, try not to mention food around them, as it may make their fasting more difficult. See what they think and what would be helpful to them.
If your coworker isn’t fasting:
You might have said… “Why aren’t you fasting?”
If you have a Muslim coworker and you find out that they aren’t fasting, it is best not to mention it at all. There are many reasons why someone chooses not to fast, and many people have health conditions that may prevent them from fasting. Regardless, it’s a personal choice and not something you should pry into.
If your team member requests time off for Ramadan:
You might have said… “We can’t give you time off for Ramadan.”
As a manager, you may have a member of your team who needs to request time off in observance of the holiday. It might be difficult to accommodate this, depending on your department’s needs. However, you should be as supportive as you can and try your best to allow your team member to take the time they need. Though you may not be familiar with the significance of this holiday, understand that it is an important time for your Muslim colleague.
If your coworker is fasting during the workday:
You might have said… “If you’re not eating, you can work through your lunch break, right?”
This is something you should avoid altogether. For one, labor laws dictate that employees are entitled to a certain amount of break time, depending on their hours, and this could be illegal. Even though your coworker may not be eating, they can and should take regular breaks. Lunch breaks aren’t just for eating; it also provides you with the necessary rest to recharge and continue with the workday.
Everyone deserves to feel included in their work culture. We should all make an effort to be as sensitive as possible to our colleagues, especially when they celebrate a holiday you may not understand. We hope these tips will be helpful to you! If you need help with implementing DEI initiatives into your organization, please feel free to reach out to: email@example.com. And if you are celebrating, Ramadan Mubarak!