The Muslim Employment Charter: Helping faith and work go hand-in-hand
For many Muslim professionals, navigating a professional career while adhering to one's faith can be challenging.
From finding time for prayers during the workday to attending office events centred around alcohol consumption, employees often silently face hurdles in balancing their religious obligations with their career advancement.
Waqas Hussain, a trainee solicitor at Bird and Bird, wants to change that with his DE&I initiative — the Muslim Employment Charter (MEC). The charter aims to help employers better accommodate the needs of their Muslim employees.
Employers who partner with MEC commit to implementing its charter into their organisation.
The charter targets three main areas to boost inclusion for Muslim professionals: the provision of workplace facilities (such as prayer rooms and Wudu facilities ), the development of social and networking policies (less alcohol-centric events and venues), and commitments to training and knowledge (to bridge any knowledge gaps).
The goal is to create an environment where Muslim professionals can thrive in their careers without compromising their religious duties.
Meanwhile, the benefits for employers are that they demonstrate their commitment to diversity, attract and retain top talent, and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive work environment.
"Currently, numerous Muslim employees may be grappling with challenges silently or wrestling with difficult decisions, burdened by the awkwardness of requesting faith-inclusion adjustments, especially for newer or more introverted team members," says Waqas.
"Our aim is to relieve Muslim employees of this burden and assist employers in gaining a better understanding of the workplace needs of their Muslim staff. This will greatly benefit both current and future employees," he adds.
Religious obligations & work commitments
Muslims have faith-based practices that directly impact the working day. We pray five times a day, and during the winter months, three of those prayers can fall within normal office hours.
In a recent survey of 500 Muslim professionals carried out by MEC, 90% said they struggle to balance their religious obligations with their work commitments.
Other findings included:
- 63% said their workplace had no prayer room
- 78% said it lacked ablution facilities
- 81% avoid alcohol-centric networking & social events
- 88% felt uncomfortable asking for faith-based workplace accommodations
Central to the Charter's approach is a commitment to raising awareness, fostering understanding, and implementing practical strategies.
"A notable advantage for employers with MEC is its operational and financial efficiency," says Waqas.
"Given that many aspects of the Charter may already be informally in place, there's often no need for a significant overhaul. Instead, we assist in refining and formalising these practices, accrediting them once they align with the MEC charter requirements.
"It's advantageous for employers to adopt MEC, as it can lead to numerous benefits, including an enhanced reputation, stronger client relationships, legal compliance, an empowered workforce, talent attraction, and a positive contribution to social mobility (given the average socio-economic group of British Muslims)."
Companies signing with MEC
The group has been actively engaging with employers for a few months now. Though not tied to a specific sector, the initial signatories have been those from the legal field, where the MEC founders have the strongest ties.
Prominent law firm in the Southwest Barcan + Kirby and London-based Black Antelope Law have signed up to the charter, as well as digital marketing agency Platypus Digital.
The international law firm Bird and Bird was also a recent signatory.
"We recognise that Muslim professionals can face a variety of challenges in the workplace, from completing their five daily prayers, navigating alcohol-centric events, to taking time off for religious holidays," Bird and Bird said in a LinkedIn post.
"This new partnership will help us to address these challenges, and create a truly inclusive environment for our Muslim colleagues," it added.
Waqas says although the group is in discussions with several other notable names, it's crucial for them not to just chase "big names for the sake of it."
"We're invested in doing this right," he says. "We're taking our time to carefully vet employers, ensuring they are genuinely committed to making meaningful changes and embracing MEC principles in a sincere and impactful manner.
"It's not about looking cool; it's about creating genuine, positive impact."
Waqas wants MEC to be "HMC for workplaces."
"We want to create a landscape where Muslim professionals feel supported and empowered, free from the burden of navigating workplace challenges in isolation," he says.
"Our hope is that the Charter's principles resonate across various sectors, transcending mere token gestures, and lead to substantial, meaningful transformations."
Find out more about The Muslim Employment Charter on its LinkedIn page
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