A 2017 study found that up to a million people in Britain may have experienced faith-related discrimination at work. Of course, discrimination of any type creates a hostile work environment and can affect employees’ performance as well as their mental wellbeing.
As the gender and race workplace inclusion conversation rises, so will faith, and it will be the “next pillar” in the growing need to diversify the workplace. However, employers should start the process of faith diversity and inclusion now, here’s how to get started.
How to create a faith-inclusive workplace
What employers need to do is create a work environment that goes beyond tolerance and actually strives to provide people of faith the tools they need to thrive.
1. Tell employees that religious attire, such as headscarves, turbans, or other symbols, are welcome
Some people who wear obvious symbols of faith can feel quite intimidated when joining a new organisation. It’s not an easy one to tackle, but one way of ensuring that future employees know that you value diversity and promote equal opportunities is to include a paragraph on your website encouraging people from all faiths to apply for vacancies, and include imagery on your website that shows a diverse workforce.
2. Provide a prayer/reflection room that anyone can use during working hours
A prayer room does not have to be a state-of-the-art church or mosque with pews. All you need is a spare room that has a door, some shelves to store prayer mats/books, and some chairs. Be sure to include this information in your employee handbook and point out the room during a tour. If this is a new addition to your workplace, send a memo to staff alerting them.
3. Allow staff to attend congregational prayers
It’s an important Islamic practice for Muslim men to attend Friday prayers, Friday being the holiest day of the week for Muslims. These prayers usually take place in mosques, last under an hour, and will take place at some time between 12 noon and 2pm, depending on the season. The fact that it falls within standard lunchtimes is perfect and therefore shouldn’t disrupt your Muslim employee’s work. It’s important to be considerate to this and allow your staff to attend, even if their lunch break may ordinarily be at a different time. An open conversation is best, discussing work requirements and letting them know that they are welcome to attend Friday prayers.
4. If your workplace has a canteen and offers halal/kosher food – ensure those options are available
It’s important to consider dietary requirements for your staff, especially during away days/events/ or even lunch meetings. Whilst Muslims can eat vegetarian and seafood that doesn’t contain alcohol, Jews have strict kosher guidelines that include meat and dairy being prepared separately. For a staff member to show up to an event and find that there’s nothing suitable for them to consume implies that the employer doesn’t care. One easy way to find out is to send out a short questionnaire on dietary requirements and ask HR to keep the results on file.
5. Allow staff to take days off for their religious festivals
Whether they have to take the days from their annual leave or whether you allow them an extra day as a gesture of goodwill is up to you, but the latter is preferable. Not everyone needs a day off for Christmas or forced leave during the entire Christmas period, but everyone deserves a day off during their own festival.
6. Provide diversity training for employees and managers
If you want to create a healthy, wholesome, inclusive workplace, this training is essential. You don’t have to restrict it to faith training only, you can include other minorities as well, and it can help your staff and you better understand each other.
7. Create a faith policy to include all the above
Set the tone for your workplace by creating a policy that embraces diversity and gives your employees the peace of mind that they, and their faith, are welcome, and that your organisation strives to cater to their religious needs. This is also important to let others know what is acceptable/unacceptable behaviour and the repercussions of discrimination.
8. Be diverse when you hire
It’s one thing talking about diversity and claiming to be inclusive, and another demonstrating it in the way that you hire. Nothing is more alienating for people of faith or minority groups than to enter a workplace that has no one else like them. Consider positively discriminating when seeking candidates for your next role. A diverse workplace is not only a creative, inspiring, and energetic one, but research by Harvard Business Review has found that diverse teams perform better as well.
In this article, you learned that:
- Including website content encouraging people from all faiths to apply for vacancies, and website imagery showing a diverse workforce with religious attire could help attract more diverse faith groups to roles
- If you have established a workplace prayer room send a memo to new and existing staff about it to increase awareness
- A faith policy, which outlines a zero-tolerance approach to faith-based discrimination, as well as a statement about the intent to cater to different needs, could boost belonging for faith groups