A month after Rishi Sunak became the UK’s first Hindu prime minister, new research has found that Hindus face an inclusion deficit and a lack of awareness of their religion in workplaces.
Among the findings from business psychology consultancy Pearn Kandola was that more than a third of Hindus (38%) have had an annual leave request to celebrate a religious festival rejected without good reason and only 5% feel that their organisation is happy for them to take time off for religious festivals.
Pearn Kandola said that the report, Religion at Work: Experiences of Hindu Employees, demonstrated why we should not “allow diversity at the top to distract us from a lack of inclusion and representation overall”. The study is the first in a series of reports looking at religious expression in the workplace, with upcoming research examining Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism and Buddhism.
Researchers found that limited representation often left Hindu employees feeling lonely and isolated at work, with a lack of diversity leaving many Hindu employees feeling that they could not express their religious identity freely.
Ethnic minority employment
Restrictive policies and not enough awareness about Hindu beliefs and practices exacerbated the situation. Several participants, for example, stated that they were required to dress in a “professional” or “non-offensive” manner at work, with many interpreting this as meaning they should avoid wearing cultural or religious dress.
While the appointment of Rishi Sunak was a significant development for inclusivity in the UK, said the study, it was crucial to note the varying forms of privilege that have helped pave the way to his success.
Binna Kandola, Pearn Kandola co-founder, said: “There is no doubt that the UK having its first Hindu prime minister is a truly historic moment – Rishi Sunak has stated on several occasions how important his faith is to him. Yet, we need to be mindful of the findings of this research. Many Hindus do not feel that they are able to express their faith openly. This is significant and demonstrates that organisations still have progress to make in creating truly inclusive cultures.”
While some people chose not to express their religious beliefs at work due to personal preferences, there is another group who would like to do so but fear the consequences. The qualitative research highlighted that this decision was often based on witnessing how others have been treated.
“Many UK-Hindus feel as though they cannot be their true selves at work, which is preventing them from achieving their full potential,” said Kandola. “Organisations need to tackle the problem head-on by creating cultures that welcome religious diversity and encourage employees to freely express their religious identity.”
Kandola argued that organisations across the UK needed to take action to raise awareness and build inclusive cultures. It added that implementing training and running awareness-raising initiatives were cited by Hindu employees as key steps.
“Successful, long-term change is dependent on building inclusive cultures, where valuing differences and supporting each other is the norm. Leaders and employees must make a consistent effort to ensure everybody feels safe to be their authentic selves,” said Kandola.