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Observing Ramadan in 2021

Observing Ramadan in 2021

The holy month of Ramadan, observed by Muslims around the globe, will start on or around the evening of Monday 12 April and end on the evening of Wednesday 12 May. The exact dates of Ramadan depend on the sighting of the new moon, and so change every year.

Throughout Ramadan, Muslims fast during the daylight hours, abstaining from food and water. The fast is broken with an evening meal, called Iftar. The end of Ramadan is marked by the festival of Eid-al-Fitr, also called the “Festival of Breaking the Fast”.

Ramadan is an important spiritual festival in Islam, representing a period of self-reflection: enduring its privations is intended to build one’s patience and compassion, break bad habits, and help one feel closer to God.

Since fasting can put additional pressure on the body, some groups are exempt: children, the elderly, people experiencing an illness, and expectant or breastfeeding mothers. The British Islamic Medical Association has advised that patients experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 or Post-COVID Syndrome should abstain from fasting and seek medical advice.


Celebrating Ramadan safely

Just like last year, Ramadan in 2021 unfortunately falls during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in the UK.

While some places of worship are open, many are operating with reduced capacity and/or requiring worshippers to book before attending. If you decide to attend mosque during Ramadan, you must avoid mixing with others outside your household. You may be required to bring your own prayer mat and face covering: check with your local mosque. Some mosques are live streaming services so that Muslims may observe their Ramadan worship from the safety of their own home.

From 29 March, it is allowed for a group of up to six people, or two households, to meet up outside. This means that a small group of people may get together to break their fast in a garden. However, you should choose individual, pre-portioned dishes rather than buffet-style meals to minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure.

If you are offered your COVID-19 vaccination during Ramadan, there is no need to decline the appointment. The British Islamic Medical Association has stated that receiving the vaccination does not ‘break one’s fast’ since it is administered by injection, and so can be received during Ramadan. If you experience any side effects following your vaccination, you should take paracetamol and stay hydrated outside of your fast.


Working during Ramadan

For those who must work during Ramadan, the physical effects of fasting can be challenging. Towards the end of the day, when Muslim employees have not had food or water since dawn, their concentration and productivity is likely to be lower than normal. Line managers have a duty to take care of all employees’ health and safety. They should ideally be discussing with those observing Ramadan how best to support them and if necessary, making reasonable adjustments to working patterns and responsibilities.

If you are a Muslim employee observing Ramadan, it is sensible to discuss this with your line manager. Keeping them informed means they can help you balance your workday, and provide provisions for you to pray at work. If you wish to request annual leave during Ramadan, ensure to do this early to minimise disruption to the rest of your team.

Accommodating religious belief and practices during Ramadan is about being responsive to employees’ 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.


Learn more

The following resources offer more information about celebrating Ramadan in 2021 and supporting Muslim colleagues who are observing Ramadan.

COVID-19 and Ramadan
Developed by the NHS Muslim Network and the British Islamic Medical Association

Factsheet on Ramadan Health
Developed by the British Islamic Medical Association and the Muslim Council of Britain

Ramadan 2021
Developed by NHS Employers

Workplace considerations during Ramadan
Developed by NHS England

Keeping patients with diabetes healthy during Ramadan
Developed by NHS England