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A Guide to Doing Business in Malaysia During Ramadhan

The largest Muslim population in Southeast Asia after Indonesia resides in the countries of Malaysia. This means that the Muslim calendar is observed, especially during the month of Ramadan (the annual month-long fast) and the Raya Aidilfitri celebration which follows. During this period, the way businesses are conducted may be impacted in these countries.

If you’re conducting business in Malaysia, here’s a quick guide to doing business during the month of Ramadhan:

  • A Change in Work Hours – The routine of the Muslim population changes as the month-long fasting ritual begins, which means many of these people may request a change in their work hours accordingly. Employers are strongly encouraged to be flexible towards the needs of their Muslim employees as a sign on inclusiveness in the workplace. Employers, for example, could opt to remove the hour these employees receive for their lunch break during this month, thereby allowing them to leave work an hour earlier in return.
  • Avoid Meetings During Lunch and Breakfast – The Muslim community abstains from food during the hours of sunrise to sunset, and employers are strongly advised to be sensitive towards their hungry employees. Meetings should preferably not be scheduled during lunch and breakfast, preferably rearranging meeting schedules to after the employees have broken fast.
  • Enlist the Proper Greeting – During the fasting month, employers can offer a simple “Selamat Berbuka Puasa” greeting. During the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations, a “Selamat Hari Raya” or “Selamat Aidilfitri” greeting will suffice.
  • Being Flexible with Work Days – As the employees draw near the end of their fasting period and prepare for the following Hari Raya celebrations, many will be submitting long leave requests to return to their hometown. Employers are encouraged to grant these requests whenever possible, even if it may require temporarily loosening HR policies about flexible working or work-from-home options.
  • Acknowledge That Dinnertime is Important – During the fasting month, dinner time is breaking fast time, which is important to Muslim employees who have spent the entire day abstaining from food and water. Muslim employees will take these breaking fast sessions very seriously, as it needs to be conducted at a specified time daily. The timings could change according to when sunset hours are. For employees who work the night shift, break times or start times may need to be adjusted to accommodate this change. Some companies have been known to organize Ramadhan breaking fast sessions as a team with the bosses and managers joining in.