Religion in the Workplace – Tips on being an inclusive employer
To be an inclusive employer, organisations need to understand and be sensitive to employee’s religious and philosophical beliefs, or the absence thereof. It is important that all employees are aware of the need to respect each other’s religion or belief to prevent conflict and discrimination. Being a genuinely inclusive employer will benefit an organisation’s brand and ability to recruit the best qualified people.
It is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of religion or belief. Religion or belief can encompass well-established faiths as well as philosophical and political beliefs. Individuals should not face discrimination in the workplace because of their religion or beliefs but that does not mean that you are unable to properly manage your business or workplace where there is a conflict between your business practices and an employee’s religion or belief.
Consider the following Top Tips to ensure your workplace is inclusive and free from discrimination.
1. Critically assess your organisation’s culture to ensure you have a culture of tolerance and inclusivity for all.
2. Ensure equality and diversity policies and statements are easily accessible to all and contain reference to religion and belief.
3. Make it clear the organisation has a zero tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and discrimination and provide examples of what this behaviour may look like in relation to religion and belief. Ensure staff know how to report instances of discrimination and feel able to do so.
4. Dress Codes can be an area of conflict where the requirements of the organisation conflict with a religion’s requirements. You should ensure that all dress codes are non-discriminatory. If an employee requests a change to dress code for religious reasons then consider it. It may be possible to agree amendment to a dress code in some instances. It may also be possible to alter dress codes for some staff and not others because of health and safety issues or security issues, for example, it may be necessary to ban long flowing garments for an employee in the warehouse where where they cause a trip hazard but it’s not necessary to ban them for office based staff.
5. Publishing religious holidays in work calendars promotes awareness and understanding of the many and varying religious festivals. Provide an explanation of what they involve and give serious consideration to requests for leave by employees that wish to observe religious holidays.
6. It is good practice to ensure all your employees are made aware of periods of fasting and what fasting entails. This can be done by posting general information on staff notice boards, intranets or newsletters to encourage understanding and consideration among colleagues. Think about making adjustments for employees that are fasting when possible.
7. Some religions require periods of prayer throughout the day. Consider providing a private and quiet space for prayer for employees’ to use if they wish.
8. It’s important to ensure that all work events are inclusive. This will involve considering the suitability of a location and ensuring that non-alcoholic drinks are available. When providing food ensure you cater for particular dietary requirements and label if needed to ensure all staff are able to fully participate.
9. When addressing requests made because of religion or belief you must be consistent in your approach and give proper consideration to the request. The following is a useful step by step guide to what you should consider:
a. Is your employee’s request related to religion or belief?
b. Would refusing the employee’s request disadvantage others?
c. Have you thought about your business needs and how easy or difficult it would be to accept the request?
d. Have you thought about the effect of accepting or rejecting the request on the individual?
e. Have you weighed up the effect of accepting or rejecting the request on other staff?
f. Make your decision – When making a final decision on a request make sure you have a good business or organisational reason for any decision.
10. An employer is legally liable for harassment by their employees unless it can show it has taken all reasonable steps to prevent it. You should implement clear policies setting out what behaviour is unacceptable and provide training to your employees on those policies. Keep your policies and training under review to ensure that both are kept up to date and all staff have receiving appropriate guidance.