The key to creating a workplace that respects different cultures and beliefs is look at integration rather than assimilation. Recognise and celebrate the differences, don’t expect everyone to conform to the majority. Legislation designed to stop discrimination was designed to protect minorities so approaching things on the basis of what is best for most people can leave you exposed.
Most problems can be avoided by just applying a little consideration. Many company events are arranged on a Friday night so that it won’t disrupt work the next day and it’s easiest for most people. However, this excludes anyone for whom Friday is a religious day. Arranging events on a Saturday could have the same effect. If you wouldn’t arrange an event on a Sunday because it is the Christian day of rest then why would you arrange it on the day of rest for other religions like Judaism or Islam? It is a matter of equal consideration.
If you are providing food then have you considered any dietary restrictions? Different religions have different restrictions on food. Take a little care when ordering food to ensure that all employees have the widest choice possible. Don’t assume that cheese, crisps or cakes will be vegetarian. Don’t mix the foods together so that different foods are touching each other and make sure that it is labelled so that people know what they are eating. Ask about any restrictions before ordering food so that you can take it into account. Give employees the choice rather than taking it away from them by making assumptions.
How do you approach religious festivals? Consider what message you are sending to your minority employees when you actively recognise some religious festivals, such as by putting up Christmas decorations or giving out Easter eggs, but don’t recognise the major festivals of other religions. This can be particularly exclusive when those festivals occur at around the same time.
Don’t assume that if members of one minority group don’t mind something then it will be alright with all others. There are a wide range of beliefs, with only 3 referred to here, and they all deserve equal respect. Employers should try to encourage a wider understanding of different beliefs and cultures and should apply this within the workplace.
For any further information regarding religion in the workplace, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.