The month of Ramadan began on 13 April 2021, and is expected to last for either 29 or 30 days, subject to the sighting of the moon.
Ramadan involves a daily period of fasting for Muslims starting at sunrise and finishing at sunset over the month. This means abstaining from food, drink (including water) and smoking. While fasting is an important part of Ramadan, it is also a time of self-reflection and self-evaluation for Muslims.
Similar to last year, Ramadan 2021 will be different for Muslim staff who observe fasting, as traditionally communal activities and prayer are observed and encouraged. Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, access to prayer facilities, quiet rooms and multi faith rooms, internally and externally, will be limited .
In addition, Ramadan will commence at a critical time in the NHS vaccine rollout. Concerns had been raised about whether the act of getting the vaccine would break the fast, as well as potential side effects of feeling unwell after being vaccinated, and reservations about taking daily pain relief medication. Dr Habib Naqvi, director of the NHS Race Health Observatory has said: "There is no reason why a first or second dose vaccine cannot be administered during Ramadan. The content is halal, and receiving it will not invalidate the Ramadan fast, as per the opinion of Islamic scholars”.
Accommodating religious belief and practices during Ramadan is about being responsive to employee needs. It does not necessarily mean extra time off, it is about offering flexibility around existing holiday entitlement, working patterns or break periods. Unlike previous years, this may prove more challenging if resources are reduced due to staff absence from self-isolation and illness.
Similarly, staff should also be aware of the health issues related to fasting, so that they are able to make more informed choices, minimise complications and maximise the benefit of their fast as well as operational effectiveness. Those who are ill with COVID-19 won't be able to take part in daily fasting, as fasting is not compulsory, or advisable for anyone who is ill or has a medical condition.
Further guidance has been developed by the British Islamic Association (BIMA) debunking myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine including during Ramadan. Public Health England has also published promotional resources such as a poster and social media image which organisations can use to improve vaccine take-up.
Ramadan COVID-19 vaccine email hotline
The British Islamic Medical Association has opened an email hotline for NHS staff, running seven days a week throughout Ramadan to answer all your questions relating to COVID-19 vaccination within 48 hours. Email CV19staff@britishma.org.
In addition, NHS England and NHS Improvement has developed useful guidance to help staff during Ramadan.
Should you have any questions about Ramadan or supporting religion in the workplace please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our COVID-19 pages also provide additional guidance around some of the workforce challenges currently facing NHS organisations.