Consideration goes a long way

OT  discusses inclusive workplace considerations for colleagues, staff and patients during Ramadan

prayer hands
Getty/Kriangkrai Thitimakorn

There’s been a lot discussion about workplace diversity, equality and inclusion in recent months. Over the past year many large and small organisations across the UK have made an effort to implement actionable steps to make improvements. Has your practice given this considerable thought? If not, now is the time to act.

Religious events from all faiths are important to acknowledge, for both your colleagues and patients. For Muslims, the coming month is Ramadan which will start on 2 April and end on 1 May (depending on moon sightings).

Throughout my career so far, I’ve worked in a variety of different organisations and workspaces, from high-rise old office blocks, to new-build modern marvels and even a basement office with no windows at all. One thing I’ve always noticed is those organisations that have provided a space for a prayer room. It’s something you might not have come across but may be something you could think about introducing in your practice or workplace? While it’s understandable that most practices may simply not have the extra space, it’s worth giving thought to how this could be accommodated.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, some get it right, sadly some don’t and others hover somewhere in between. In my experience and opinion, most linger in the latter. There is always room to learn and listen to other people. One person’s experience and expectations may be completely different from anothers.

One consideration important to stress is that the way people practise their religion can be different for each generation and culture.

As a Muslim woman, Ash Ahmed, DE&I and wellbeing consultant, recently posted some helpful tips for employers to get them thinking more about the conversations they can have with their employees that might be fasting. From her personal and professional perspective, she also offers advice for inclusive language, such as, instead of asking: “How come you’re not fasting like the others” to “Say nothing at all. No one should have to justify their reasons for not fasting.”

For an upcoming OT article, Birmingham-based optometrist, Qadir Baz shared how his managers have been supportive and that these conversations normally start way in advance of Ramadan.

He told OT: “I’ve always found my non fasting colleagues supportive and understanding. My managers tend to have a conversation, approximately four to eight weeks before the month starts. We discuss if any adjustments are needed to help me and I will discuss to ensure that any changes being made do not adversely affect the business. It’s a two-way street. Good open communication is important to help us understand each other.”

Religion is one of the nine protected characteristics in The Equality Act 2010, so it is important to take any conversations seriously when discussing flexible working time, breaks and health and safety with colleagues that are fasting during Ramadan. Refusal of requests, without sufficient facts or a business case could be considered discriminatory. 

If you’re an AOP member (employer or employee) seeking more information about guidance at work during Ramadan, the AOP has produced a helpful resource with more information here.

The workplace is one place to consider, but with 100% Optical just around the corner, it might be helpful for those looking for a prayer room to know that the venue organisers, have confirmed that: “With the event falling during Ramadan, there is a prayer room on site – located beside Hall S9 – available for anyone to use as they wish.”

The workplace aside, many optometrists may see patients that are fasting over the next month. Often a subject that arises is the use of eye drops and whether this breaks fast.

According to Glaucoma UK, “an estimated 50,000 Muslims in the UK have glaucoma” with a large proportion concerned about taking eye drops during Ramadan. The charity urges “Muslim patients with glaucoma to prevent irreversible damage to their sight by continuing to use their eye drops during Ramadan.”

Previously the charity worked in partnership with the Muslim Council of Britain to produce a short film to raise awareness and emphasise the importance of using glaucoma eye drops during Ramadan. 

For eye care professionals looking for resources to share with their patients, Glaucoma UK has more helpful information on its website here. 

To gain additional insight and advice about the use of eye drops during Ramadan, we spoke to the AOP’s clinical and regulatory team.

AOP clinical adviser and optometrist, Farah Topia, commented that: “It can be difficult if you see a patient who needs eye drops but is unwilling to administer them whilst they are fasting. You should have an informed discussion with the patient regarding the benefits of treatment and the risks of non-treatment.

“You can inform patients that using punctal occlusion can help reduce the risk of drops reaching the throat. If those observing Ramadan remain concerned about using drops, consider if you can adjust their dosage so that they can instil the drops before dawn or after dusk.”

AOP head of clinical and regulatory, and optometrist, Henry Leonard added that: “In a busy clinic it’s easy to forget that some patients may object to having drops put in their eyes, so it’s important to ensure patients understand that you’re planning to use drops, and give them an opportunity to decline.”

If you’re concerned about a patient and their use of eye drops during Ramadan, AOP members can contact the AOP clinical and regulatory team for further advice.