Supporting Muslims during Eid: Five employer questions

With the Islamic festival of Eid Al-Adha expected to fall this weekend (9-10 July), many Muslim employees will be preparing for the celebrations. Sabah Ahmedi, one of the UK's youngest Muslim faith leaders, answers some key questions about supporting employees.

What is Eid?

The word Eid literally means "oft-repeating celebration".

Islam is based on the lunar calendar, and as Muslims we have two Eids, approximately 10 weeks apart.

The first celebration is Eid Al-Fitr, which is the celebration of thanking God for allowing Muslims to fast for the 30 days of Ramadan.

The second celebration is called Eid Al-Adha. This is known as the celebration of sacrifice and commemorates the obedience of Prophet Abraham and his son Prophet Ismail to the commandment of God. You might hear Muslim employees talking about giving to charity, so some workplaces offer a donation collection - during this Eid, one-third of the meat sacrificed is donated.

How can employers support Muslims celebrating Eid?

Both Eids are equally important for Muslims and, where possible, it is vital for them to attend the Eid prayers in congregation, which usually take place in the morning.

As the date of Eid is decided on the sighting of the moon in a particular area, many Muslims around the world don't celebrate Eid on the same day. Even within the UK, Muslims do not celebrate on the same day. Therefore it is good practice to find out which day they are celebrating Eid on.

For those who choose to work on an Eid, it's widely accepted for non-Muslims to be a part of their celebrations as Islam is about community, understanding and mutual respect. It is also important for employees to be mindful of the fact that their Muslim colleagues are celebrating.

How might employers ensure they are meeting Muslim employees' needs?

Employers who are unsure how to navigate Eid are advised to talk to Muslim colleagues to share their experiences. They could also consider bringing in faith leaders to talk about these celebrations, to educate, and to advise businesses on how best to approach the periods around Eid.

The purpose of the sessions is to be as inclusive as possible, and the best sessions I've ran tend to be from organisations where there was an openness to learn and an understanding that no question is a silly question.

How can employers help non-Muslim staff better understand the festival of Eid?

As mentioned before, education is key.

If you have a company- or office-wide newsletter, including information about Eid and how it might affect Muslim colleagues is a good start. If you have the opportunity, bring in a Muslim faith leader (Imam) to share what Eid is about and to answer general questions around the religion itself. This can be done flexibly given that a lot of events happen virtually.

Being proactive in engaging with the workforce can help challenge misconceptions and discrimination.

How can employers support staff attending Hajj?

Understanding the importance of Hajj in a Muslim's life is important. It is one of the pillars of the faith for all Muslims, and every Muslim has to undertake the pilgrimage at least once in their life when they deem themselves ready.

At the same time, there is an obligation for all Muslims to follow government and employer protocols, including COVID-19 guidelines.

Many Muslim employees will organise this in their usual annual leave allowance rather than ask for additional time off and, in many instances, many will return with a new attitude to life and changes to their daily lifestyles (as well as a shaved head, for the men!). As with anyone else going on holiday, last minute changes to rules may impact travel, so this must be kept in mind when supporting those who are travelling for Hajj.