Supporting Religious Observance At Work

Supporting Religious Observance At Work

author

James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.

Date

27 March 2023

Updated

11 July 2024
3 min read
featured

Supporting Religious Observance At Work

As a business owner, it is important to support religious observance at work because religious beliefs and practices are a fundamental part of many people's lives and can greatly influence their behaviour, values, and attitudes.

Fostering an environment that respects and supports employees' religious observance can help to create a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming workplace and can also improve employee morale, engagement, and retention.

Simple Ways To Support Religious Behaviours Or Practices In The Workplace

  • Provide flexible working scheduling options
  • Provide space for employees to engage in religious practices whilst at work
  • Educate your workforce
  • Celebrate religious holidays and events
  • Workplace policies should be inclusive and respectful of religious beliefs
  • Encourage feedback about religious beliefs

Flexible Working Options

Some religious holidays require employees to take time off from work or commit to certain religious activities that may occur during working hours.

It can be challenging for them to balance their religious obligations with their work responsibilities.

By offering flexible scheduling options, such as allowing employees to swap shifts or work remotely, you can help employees to meet their religious obligations without having to sacrifice their work commitments.

Space For Religious Activities

Providing a quiet, private space for an employee to pray during the workday or allowing religious clothing or head covering via a dress code policy that is flexible enough to support this can help employees feel more comfortable and included in the workplace.

This may not always be possible, but where this can be accommodated, it can be a simple way to create an inclusive workplace.

Education

Encouraging a greater understanding of different religious beliefs and practices that may be seen in the workplace can help to foster greater respect among employees and can also help to prevent discrimination or harassment based on religious beliefs. Consider training sessions or workshops that focus on different religious traditions, beliefs, and practices. You could also provide educational resources, such as books, articles, or videos, that employees can access to learn more about different religions.

Celebrate Religious Holidays

By supporting or engaging with religious holidays and events, you can create a welcoming and more inclusive work environment. Office parties, events, or activities that celebrate religious diversity can be a great way to share religious traditions and practices with others.

Inclusive Workplace Policies

Inclusive Workplace Policies

Workplace policies and practices need to be inclusive and respectful of all religious beliefs. For example, you should avoid scheduling important meetings or events on major religious holidays, and you should be mindful of the foods and beverages that you provide at work-related events to ensure that they are appropriate for different dietary restrictions.

You should also ensure that your policies and practices are consistent with anti-discrimination laws and that they do not discriminate against employees based on their religious beliefs or practices.

Encourage Feedback About Religious Beliefs

Open communication and feedback from employees can help you to identify areas where you could improve and can also help you to address any concerns or issues that arise related to religious observance.

You could create a feedback mechanism, such as a suggestion box or an anonymous survey, that employees can use to provide feedback and suggestions about how to improve religious observance at work.

What Does The Law Say On Religious Observance At Work?

In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the workplace. This means that employers cannot treat employees less favourably or subject them to any kind of detriment because of their religion or belief, or lack thereof.

The Equality Act also requires employers to ensure that their “provisions, criterions or practices” do not have the indirect effect of placing a particular religious group at a disadvantage unless this can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

This might include allowing employees time off to attend religious festivals or ceremonies, providing prayer rooms or other facilities for religious observance, or accommodating religious dress or dietary requirements.

This applies equally to all religions and beliefs, including those that may be less well-known or understood. Employers should therefore take care to avoid assumptions or stereotypes about particular religions or beliefs and should be prepared to accommodate a wide range of religious observances.

Further reading: When Can You Use The Statutory Defence Against Discrimination Claims?

What Happens If You Don't Make Considerations For Religions At Work?

Failing to consider the need for sensitivity to religious observance in the workplace can have serious consequences for employers.

It can lead to discrimination claims being brought against the employer by employees who feel they have been treated unfairly as a result of their religion, a negative impact on employee morale and engagement, and can lead to a high staff turnover rate.

Discrimination claims can result in costly legal proceedings, damage to the employer's reputation, and financial compensation awards for the affected employees.

Poor employee morale can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and a higher turnover rate, all of which can be detrimental to the employer's bottom line and make it more difficult to attract and retain employees.

Further reading: The Role of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: Best Practices for HR Professionals

Summary

Supporting religious observance at work is an important aspect of creating a diverse, inclusive and welcoming workplace. As a business owner, it is essential to understand your legal obligations, and failing to do so can have serious consequences.

There are plenty of simple and effective ways that you can support religious observance to establish a workplace that values and respects the religious beliefs and practices of all employees.

The benefits of understanding your responsibility and taking positive steps to embrace religious observances at work could include increased employee morale, engagement, and productivity, as well as a positive impact on your reputation as an employer and bottom line.

Next Steps

If you would like support with managing and understanding your HR and employer responsibilities towards your workforce when it comes to religious observances at work or managing the of failing to meet them, please call 01244 893776 to speak to one of our team.

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