To be a genuinely inclusive employer, organisations need to understand – and be sensitive to – employees’ religious and philosophical beliefs (or the absence thereof).
While religion and belief discrimination is illegal in the UK as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, a 2017 report by consultancy ComRes showed that 3% of workers still say they are discriminated against because of their religion or beliefs, and a similar proportion report having witnessed colleagues being discriminated against on this basis.
The evidence also revealed a significant mismatch between HR and employee perceptions about provisions their organisation makes to cater for religious inclusion. For example, while 91% of HR managers say their organisation promotes understanding of equality, diversity and inclusion with regards to religion and belief to some or a great extent, only a quarter of workers agree this is the case.
The CIPD believes that every person in recognition and respect of their religious or philosophical beliefs should be enabled and empowered to have equal access and outcomes throughout the employee lifecycle - from getting a job, benefitting from training or getting a promotion. Everyone has the right to develop their skills and talents to their full potential, work in a safe and inclusive environment, be fairly rewarded for their work, and have a voice in their organisation.
It’s in the best interests of any organisation to understand and be sensitive to employees’ religious or philosophical beliefs (or the absence of such beliefs). It’s important that all employees are aware of the need to respect each other’s religions and beliefs to prevent conflict and any form of harassment and discrimination.
Being a genuinely inclusive employer will benefit an organisation’s brand and their ability to recruit the best people. In addition to the cost to individuals facing prejudice or bias and missing out on job opportunities, employers who take no action to deliver equality, diversity and inclusion will quickly become less attractive in the labour market, losing out to competitors.
Recommendations for employers
- Critically assess your organisation’s culture. Do you have a culture of inclusivity at work? Are your policies and practices underpinned by principles that actively values, celebrates and encourages differences?
- Ensure equality, diversity and inclusion policies and statements are easily accessible to all and explicitly includes religion and belief.
- Make it clear the organisation has a sensible zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and discrimination. Provide examples of what these behaviours may look like with respect to religion and belief.
- Ensure staff are aware of how to report instances of bullying, harassment or discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, and feel able to do so.
- Be sensitive to employees’ needs in terms of uniforms, dietary requirements, relevant dates (including religious observance events and festivals), in staff catering or providing a room for prayer.
- Consider a calendar of religious holidays to support religious diversity at work, make staff feel they can celebrate religious occasions, and help people understand the significance of religious festivals to colleagues of different faiths by including any considerations within the work environment.
- Make sure work events are inclusive. For example, providing non-alcoholic drinks is essential, and being mindful of offsite locations can ensure every employee enjoys the events. Offering a range of foods such as halal, kosher, vegan, and labelling them is also important, as some religious groups have specific dietary requirements.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
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