We are slowly reaching a milestone, whereby religious festivals are now becoming recognised when it comes to paid annual leave in the same way that Christmas and Easter are. While employers are envisioning days off for Eid and Diwali to allow for greater diversity, inclusion, and well-being, it is also important to recognise that their duty does not just stop there.
We appreciate there are numerous religions where types of fasts are observed, however, in this blog, we will focus on Hinduism in particular.
Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions, which bears various rituals and traditions, including fasting. This blog looks into the significance of Hindu fasting practices and explores what employers can do to be more inclusive.
Hindus fast regularly throughout the year, however, it is a broad religion and therefore no one person will fast in the same way or at the same time as their peers. Fasting is usually observed on significant religious days but can also include days such as the 11th day of every Hindu calendar fortnight. Some Hindus may observe this by abstaining from eating certain foods, eating only one meal in one sitting during the day, or not eating or drinking for the whole day.
The religion of Hinduism imparts that fasting is for spiritual enlightenment and fasting unlocks purification of its devotees. How does this link to the workplace environment?
In most workplace environments, lunch breaks are fixed, and therefore employees will be required to adhere to those timings, but such set timings may not fit into the fasting schedule of a Hindu employee.
It should be considered whether having fixed lunch breaks or having lunch breaks dictated to the employee may conflict with fasting requirements. As well as lunch breaks, there may be Company events that clash with those fasting, so you need to consider how that will impact them: do they need any adjustments making to ensure they can still come? If employees are not encouraged to be open about their fasting or how it can be made easier for them, it can make the employee feel isolated. Employers should encourage employees to communicate with them and their colleagues about when they will be fasting and what adjustments, if any, they may require.
Raising awareness of different types of fasting and how employers will support their staff is essential in promoting inclusivity and diversity.
How can employers ensure that they are making employees who are fasting feel more supported:
- Encourage employees to talk about Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: this includes participating in training that encourages and supports employees to acknowledge that everyone has different beliefs and that an active effort should be made to be inclusive.
- Encourage employees to communicate about their fasting days and be clear on what you as an employer can do to help them.
- Be flexible: employers should be prepared for the fact that employees may approach them to change their work schedules during their fasting period or ask them to take adjusted lunch breaks. Where possible and so far as it does not cause a detriment to other employees, employers should support them.
- Employers should provide a designated space where employees can observe their fast or carry out their prayers.
The importance of accommodating those fasting has already been illustrated above, in order to create a diverse and inclusive environment employers need to think about the actions they take. By embracing diversity, employees will feel valued and respected and will have a sense of belonging, which ultimately leads to increased motivation, engagement, productivity, and harmony within the workplace.
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