With the holy month of Ramadan well underway, many Muslim employees are maintaining a strict fast. For HR professionals, it is considerate to create policies that enable them flexibility while giving enough room to remain productive.
To gauge industry practice, Human Resources and Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) reached out to employers across Asia, for examples on how they are celebrating Ramadan across their workforces.
All Muslim staff can go off half an hour earlier from work during the month of Ramadan, subject to the operational needs of their departments. Says Wong Keng Fye, head of human capital, Maybank Singapore: “Being a pro-employee organisation, we want to show our support for our Muslim colleagues as they fast from dawn till sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. There has not been any issue work-wise as productivity has not been impacted.”
Additionally, if the eve of Hari Raya Puasa falls on a weekday, Muslim colleagues may leave the office half a day earlier. This similarly applies to relevant colleagues for the eve of different cultural public holidays, as well as for Christmas and New Year.
Ramada and Days Hotels Singapore
Specially prepared Sahur is provided at the hotel’s private dining lounge for the approximately 25% of the Muslim workforce on its rolls. All associates are sent a notice to avoid Sahur and Iftar timing for breakfast in order to give priority to fasting employees.
Comprising a breakfast menu of dates and soft-diet, special items are added to the standard dinner menu during Iftar, such as bandung and a variety of “kueh” daily. Additionally, a festive menu is prepared on Hari Raya for both Muslim and non-Muslim employees to partake.
A flexible approach is taken for work arrangements during this time, for Muslim employees to be available during Sahur or Iftar, and they are encouraged to use the prayer room typically allocated for external clients.
Josephine Chua, director of HR and quality, at Ramada, adds that employees with specials need may approach their supervisor/HOD for approval. She shares an example of one such request: “We had a few busy back-to-back banquet events during Ramadan. The banquet team had very short time to turn over the function rooms in between the different events.
“Although all associates were supposed to consume their meals at our designated cafeteria, we exceptionally arranged pre-packed food to ensure that our Muslim banquet associates were able to breakfast on time with a good meal.”
As a result of such initiatives, Ramada and Days Hotels Singapore, the finalist of 2016 TAFEP Exemplary Employers Award, has not seen any surge in absenteeism during the fasting period.
Moreover, Nurul Nabilah, housekeeping supervisor, shares her experiences: “I enjoy breaking fast at the staff cafeteria with my colleagues and friends as we have a variety of delicious food prepared for us, daily. The dates and kueh give a homely feel where we get to break fast together as a community during the month of Ramadan. The chefs are also very attentive to our needs, especially during Iftar and make us feel truly taken care of.”
Royal Plaza on Scotts
An annual pre-Ramadan feast is held at Royal Plaza for all Muslim talent, as well as a surau room is provided for their praying needs. During the fasting period, the hotel provides additional items such as bandung and kueh at its halal-certified dining area, which also serves fruit, salad and brown rice. This staff canteen, known as S.ER.V.I.C.E. Square, is hosting a Hari Raya feast next week for all associates.
Patrick Fiat, GM and chief experience officer, Royal Plaza on Scotts, affirms the hotel avoids food giveaways for its Weekly Delights during this period, with the exception of dates. Weekly Delights is a weekly initiative where activities including giveaways of sweet treats and healthy snacks are hand-delivered to offices and back-of-house to perk up the talents’ day.
Mini-competitions for bonding activities and festive decorations, such as the recent Hari Raya department decorations, are also held across departments to create excitement and memorable moments for talents.
Fiat shares about work arrangements for Ramadan: “Half day off-in-lieu for the eve of Hari Raya is provided for management as well as junior talent. All Muslim talents have a half day off on the eve of Hari Raya. For talents working in the operations side and having shift hours, they can claim the off-in-lieu within two months.”
As a multi-racial and multi-religious society, Singapore’s workforce is inherently diverse. “With such workforce diversity, it is also important for organisations to put in place practices and policies to build an inclusive and harmonious workplace,” notes Roslyn Ten, general manager of TAFEP.
Pointing out that festive occasions can be a way to engage employees and strengthen ties between people of different cultures, Ten shares that TAFEP will be having a lunch get-together next week to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, where staff are encouraged to dress in traditional Malay costumes.
TAFEP encourages organisations to be more accommodating towards employees who request for flexible work arrangements during the festive period. “An example would be Muslim employees requesting to vary their daily start and end times during Ramadan so that they can be home to break fast with their family,” explains Ten. “Employers who are understanding and open to hearing their employees’ needs will be one step closer to creating an inclusive workplace and this is the key to business success.”
Photos / Provided