While you may think your workplace is inclusive and welcoming to all religions, there may be more you can do as an employer to embrace religious diversity and ensure you are accommodating to all religions. It is entirely up to each employee whether they choose to disclose their religion at work, but if they do, it’s essential they feel supported and that all of their needs are met. For many people, religion is a massive part of their identity, and it can be very distressing or disorientating to have to mask this while at work.
Five ways to support religious employees
Space for prayer
It is very common practice in workplaces to have a suitable and quiet space for religious people to pray during their day if they need it. This doesn’t have to be an expensive, refurbished room, but simply a quiet room where ant staff know they can go if they wish to pray. This helps staff to know that their religion can be a part of their working life and not something they need to leave at the door.
Don’t assume everyone celebrates the same holidays.
Part of embracing religious diversity at work is about recognising that everybody has different personal lives and that we don’t all live by the same practices. A large part of this relates to religious holidays and festivals. Be sensitive when talking about holidays and religious celebrations as not everybody celebrates the same ones. It can be alienating for a person if they are assumed to celebrate a particular holiday. Alternatively, it can be distressing for a person to feel as if their celebrations are less valid.
Encourage staff to take time off for their religious celebrations.
With this in mind, it’s essential that staff feel like they can have time off for their religious celebrations, even if not everybody else is celebrating it. If you know a staff member will be celebrating a particular religious holiday, don’t ask them to work on this day, or don’t set them a significant deadline just after. Ensure they know that their celebrations are just as valid as any other and time off is not an inconvenience.
Make sure events are suitable for all religions.
If you have any out of work events, they must be suitable for all religions. This means that you must consider people’s dietary requirements if food is available, as many religious people don’t eat certain foods. And there must always be a non-alcoholic drink option for those that don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons. If an exterior organisation is catering an event, make sure to communicate to them about the needs of your staff, so no religious person feels excluded.
Have a flexible and inclusive dress code policy
One of the most prevalent forms of religious discrimination in the workplace is through unfair dress code policy. As an employer, you need to remember that not all of your staff can dress in the same way as some people may have dress practices they must follow due to their religion. Having an inclusive dress code policy, which recognises different religious dress, will help staff feel comfortable and accepted.