Observing good practice in respect of religion can help build a more diverse, inclusive, respectful and motivated workforce. In creating an inclusive workplace, what steps can HR take to address the key issues associated with religion fairly, while supporting the needs of the business?
1. Champion good practice on religious inclusion
The positive effects of being sensitive to cultural and religious needs of job applicants and employees include:
- enhancing the organisation’s reputation as an inclusive employer;
- enabling employees of different religious identities to feel respected and that they belong, which has a positive impact on morale, motivation and retention; and
- creating a diverse workforce that brings different perspectives, knowledge and insights to the business, which benefits employers operating in multi-cultural, multi-faith global communities and markets.
The key to success is keeping the lines of communication open and treating each case on an individual basis when handling religion in the workplace.
More religious inclusion resources
2. Create inclusive policies and procedures
HR should ensure that employment policies and procedures are regularly reviewed so that they are relevant to the changing needs of the business, are up to date with legal requirements and best practice and do not disadvantage employees because of their religion or lack of it.
When reviewing or developing a policy, HR could benefit from seeking advice from local and national sources of expertise.
3. Implement non-discriminatory recruitment and selection practices
Employers that wish to attract a diverse pool of candidates must ensure that their recruitment and selection practices and procedures are non-discriminatory.
Using positive statements in job advertisements welcoming applications from all those who meet the job requirements regardless of their identity, or from specific underrepresented groups, can help attract a more diverse pool of applicants.
Employers should provide clear instructions to any employment agencies that they use not to exclude people on the basis of their identity, including religion or lack of it, and should ask the agency what steps they will take to ensure they reach a wide group of suitable applicants.
- Creating an inclusive workplace for religion and belief: more on the recruitment and selection process
4. Take practical steps to create religious inclusion
There are a number of practical steps that employers can take to create an inclusive workplace for religion, including:
Did you know?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced a useful decision-making tool to help employers deal with requests for time off for religious reasons.
- raising awareness by providing training on religion to minimise the potential for workplace conflict that can arise from misconceptions about religion;
- encouraging multi-faith employee networks to demonstrate an employer’s commitment to religious diversity in the workplace;
- allowing time off for religious observance and agreeing flexible working arrangements, where practicable;
- giving reasonable consideration to individual requests to pray and ensuring that any dedicated space for prayer or meditation is inclusive of different religions;
- ensuring that any dress code requirements can be objectively justified and that the reason for having a dress code is clearly communicated to employees;
- being sensitive to employees’ cultural and religious needs when organising workplace events and training including accommodating dietary, and other observance requirements; and
- setting out in a policy what constitutes unacceptable behaviour that can amount to harassment relating to religion or belief.
- Creating an inclusive workplace for religion and belief: more on raising awareness
- Creating an inclusive workplace for religion and belief: more on prayer
- Creating an inclusive workplace for religion and belief: more on proselytising and harassment
Why is inclusive practice important?
“For people to bring their whole self to work, they need to feel safe to be who they are. An employee’s religious identity or their belief may be a source of resilience and motivation for them which can in turn significantly contribute to their performance and wellbeing.”