· 3 min read · Features

D&I clinic: Celebrating faith in an increasingly non-religious society

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Q. How can you make people with faith still feel seen in the workplace in an increasingly non-religious society?

A. Whether we call it faith, religion, spiritual beliefs – or even non-belief, for many, this is personally defining.

It adds another layer of diversity, part of identity and sense of belonging that extends beyond home, beyond our communities, touches the society we live in, and our workplaces where we may spend most of our waking hours every day, virtual or otherwise.

Whatever our faith, the freedom and right to practise and observe it is paramount and protected by law. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone because of religion or belief, or because of a lack a religion or belief.


More D&I tips:

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Here are some tips on what you can do to create inclusive environments, and to support people with faith as a largely secular society and workplace:

  • Sharing religious holidays in workplace calendars can help educate people and make them feel like they are able to observe religious occasions and where appropriate, celebrate festivals. Where employees may not celebrate a UK bank holiday, e.g., Easter, you could offer the option to trade those holidays for ones that are important to one’s specific religions.

  • Create a multi-faith room suitable for all to use. Do research on the facilities required, e.g., washing facilities, provisions of carpets, cupboards to store item. Respect people’s privacy to religious practices without assumptions/stereotypes based on faith. Make accommodations for employees whose faith requires them to pray during work hours, for example Muslims attending congregational prayers on Fridays.

  • Where food is concerned and served at the workplace, either routine or for events, offer a variety of items and carefully label them as some religious groups have specific dietary requirements. Remember, this may be important for the ingredients of the food served but also how the food was prepared. It’s important to ask the right questions.

  • Similarly, there should always be non-alcoholic options at all times. If there’s a cocktail, put an effort into the mocktail. Where this applies for events and wider stakeholders, your clients, customers, and partners attending alongside employees will see an organisation that cares about how it presents something as simple as food and drink.

  • Allow religious people to wear clothing or symbols that align with their faith. For example hijabs, turbans or pendants. Also include such images of religious diversity in your marketing and visuals.

  • Some people may convert to other religions, this shouldn’t be up for ‘debate’ or ‘question’, unless they want to have the conversation and the workplace has created a safe space to explore and be questioning with adequate support.

  • If you have employee networks or employee resource groups (ERGs), encourage multi-faith ERGs to come together and collaborate across the different faith groups. Create the right foundation and support with ERGs who can volunteer their time to help employees feel more open and encouraged to be comfortable and upfront about their religious needs without judgment.

It’s important to bear in mind that faith is still not openly discussed in the workplace. Progressive workplaces will create the conditions for conversations around many sensitive topics on diversity and difference, and faith and religion are no different.

This is also where ERGs come in, as they can guide how this is organised, communicated, and executed, especially if there are minority voices and under-represented groups involved.

As a learning organisation, much can be achieved through a medium of discussion, respectful learning, seeing both or many sides of the same debate, argument or simply discussion. While a handful of tips have been provided, the key is to not shut down or shy away from having a dialogue. Have it bravely, honestly, openly, and respectfully.

 

Huma Qazi is a diversity and leadership consultant and founder of The Privilege Project

 

If you have a pressing D&I problem you can't get to the bottom of, send in your query here where it could be answered by our resident D&I specialist Huma Qazi in the next issue of HR magazine.

 

This piece appears in the November/December 2021 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.