We live in a multi-faith society. Wherever we go we will likely be surrounded by people with different beliefs, backgrounds and faiths than ourselves.

A big part of having a job is figuring out how to balance your working life and your personal life. Your religious beliefs are a part of your personal life, but they have an impact on everything you do.

So, a challenge for employers and employees alike is finding a way to integrate people's individual needs based on their religions into the work environment in a healthy way.

Luckily, we have 5 key tips that allow everyone to express their beliefs openly in the workplace in a respectful and non-disruptive way.

 

Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace is never ok. There are laws in place, and policies in every workplace to prevent people from being judged or treated differently based on many factors, including their religious beliefs. However, often forms of discrimination are harder to notice, so it is important to be aware of any small ways discrimination may be taking place within your work environment and draw attention to them if needs be.

A notable example is dress codes. Many workplaces have dress codes, either for health and safety or to keep everyone looking uniform and professional. However, sometimes people may unknowingly be discriminating when creating a dress code. For example, some dress codes may disallow beards or heads being covered, whereas some people may have beards or cover their heads due to their religion and are being penalized under this code. Small examples like this may be hard to recognize straight away, so it is important to listen to anyone who notices them and always take on board advice from employees or co-workers when creating policies so as to avoid accidental discrimination.

 

Events

Most religions will have special holidays and dates where special practices are to be observed or where they simply may require days off. It is unlikely that everyone in the workplace will know every holiday or event that exists in this sphere, so it can be helpful to utilize a shared calendar. Putting your, or your employees, special days on a calendar for everyone to see will help everyone be more educated about each other’s beliefs and will allow everyone to be informed about when certain people may need time off or be absent from work.

In many workplaces, you will need to request time off for religious reasons; this will usually then be taken from your allotted holidays. However, if you would like to keep your allotted holiday time it might be worth swapping out other days off that you don’t need. For example, Easter has a bank holiday where no one will work. If you are not a Christian, you don’t need to observe this; you could instead work on that day and take that bank holiday on a religious day that you would like to observe. As an employee, you can discuss this with your managers or HR, as an employer it can be a good idea to suggest this idea to anyone in your company that you feel would benefit from it.

 

Space

Many religions will require their followers to occasionally utilize a dedicated space for its practices, for example, Islam requires daily prayer in a separate room. The easiest way to deal with this need is to make sure your workspace has a dedicated area for such practices. Because there may be multiple faiths in any given company, the best action is to have a multi-faith space, this can be as simple as a small dedicated room or be a proper multi-faith chapel; whatever you are able to do.

Having this space will allow employees to practice their religion in a way that does not hinder their own work or the work of others. They can simply use the room when they need and return to work when they are finished. An employer must not penalize someone for using the room during work hours, respect for someone’s beliefs is key and will build a sense of trust with that employee. If you are going to have multiple people using the room it may be best to organize a timetable for everyone to see, so that they all know who will be using the room at what time and for what. This way practices will not be disturbed or overlapping.

 

Inclusivity

The name of the game when it comes to faith in the workplace is to make sure everyone feels included in anything that takes place. For example, it is customary for companies to hold events for their employees, be that team building, birthday parties or trips out of work. If you are organizing one of these events, make sure to take everyone’s belief systems into account. if there will be food available, make sure that people with dietary requirements related to their faith are catered for. It is always a good idea to ask everyone before planning if there is anything they require, this way you can make sure you always have the best information for being inclusive.

Organizing timings is also essential. Make sure you know when religious festivals, holidays or days of worship are going to make someone unavailable and try not to organize events that conflict. The reason for focussing on inclusivity in this way is to make sure all your employees/co-workers feel like they are valued members of the team and that their personal religion is not getting in the way of their work.

 

Policy

Making sure every member of a workforce feels understood and valued really comes from the top down. The people in charge of the business need to lead as an example to their workforce. It is important that companies have policies in place to prevent discrimination and harassment due to religion. Make sure that your business encourages people to come forward with any complaints or concerns they may have. It is also important that there is a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to harassment and discrimination of any kind. Such behaviour is illegal and if any individual is found to be exhibiting it, they can be dismissed. It is also important not to allow people to unfairly use their religious beliefs to exhibit negative behaviours, for example refusing to work with other staff members or certain customers.

A person’s religious believes should not have to infringe on their ability to carry out their jobs. By taking steps to integrate religion and work as both an employer and an employee, you can create a work environment that is fair and welcoming for people from all backgrounds and all faiths.