Christmas closures could lead to discrimination claims

Employers should be aware that shutting the office over Christmas could be seen as discriminatory by followers of some religions, it has emerged.

Non-Christians have to use up their annual leave to celebrate their own religious holidays and so may resent the fact that all staff are given time off over the festive period, according to a leading employers’ group.

The Employers Forum on Belief recommends that bosses try to win staff over by telling them it is cost-effective to shut the business down completely at the end of December and start of January.

According to a Telegraph report, the group says there is no reason for companies to avoid celebrating Christmas for fear of offending minority faiths, although it advises putting up “seasonal” decorations in workplaces instead of religious ones.

A guide published by the Employers Forum on Belief states: “There is no need to panic about Christmas at work.”

It states: “The Christmas we know today is also built on many other traditions of mid-winter celebration and some argue that playing down its religious significance can avoid upsetting or alienating non-Christians.

“The challenge of appearing ‘politically correct’ has led some to the view that imposing a Christian festival on modern multi-cultural Britain is inappropriate.”

But it points out that even Britain’s equality watchdog believes denying Britain’s Christian heritage can be bad for “community relations”.

It goes on: “Many employers display Christmas decorations in the workplace and send Christmas cards, e-mails etc to employees, customers and others.

“There is no need to stop on grounds of religion or belief, although – unless your organisation has a strong Christian culture or ethos – it may be more sensitive to use seasonal rather than religious imagery.”

Comments are closed.