How to manage Muslim staff
Ramadan places special demands on businesses with Muslim employees. Here's how smart employers handle the staffing crunch.
(FSB Magazine) -- The Muslim holy month of Ramadan drew to a close last Friday when observers broke their fast on Eid-ul-Fitr, a three-day-long period of prayers and festivities. But while the Islamic world allows time off for the entirety of Eid and shortened work hours throughout Ramadan, the roughly120,000 Muslims here in the United States enjoy no government-sanctioned holiday time. This means small businesses have had to create their own makeshift policies.
"Employers need to trust that Ramadan is not a license to be lazy," says Lana Taha, management analyst at the Islamic Society of Boston. "Give your Muslim workers some flexibility in work hours, and the courtesy to pray throughout the work day."
Adnane Ettayebi, who manages a team of 75 translators as the owner of Globe Translators and Interpreters, lets his roughly 20 Muslim employees leave by 2 p.m. during Ramadan so that they can prepare for the daily breaking-of-the-fast at sunset. That policy mimics what happens in much of the Islamic world: In Bahrain the law allows traditional 9-to-5 workers to quit after six hours; businesses in Kuwait open their doors later, at 10 a.m., and closer earlier, at 3 p.m.; Doha finishes its day at 2 p.m.; and Dubai lets its governmental sectors modify their work hours as they please.
"A lot of them work from home so that they can work at night; we just rotate the schedule and their workload stays exactly the same," says Ettayebi, who offers the same flexibility to all of his employees. "Business is business. Ramadan or not, I want my employees working when they're most productive."
Tonne Bobsaith, who runs Creative Events of Dallas, a catering and event-planning business, converted to Islam twenty years ago and readjusts roles within the company to accommodate Ramadan fasting requirements for her and her employees, both Muslim and non-Muslim. For one, she remains head chef but asks non-Muslim workers to sample the food if cooking is done at times when she's fasting. And before taking off to celebrate Eid - the only weekend of this year when she won't be working - Bobsaith left the company in the hands of her non-Muslim staff. "But it's a mutual give-and-take" she says. "We pick up the slack for them during Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving."
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