I’ve always seen November as a quiet month, with not much going on, but it turns out that November is in fact a busy time for many religions. It sees the start of some major religious festivals for Buddhists, Christians, Rastafarians, Hindus and Sikhs.
I don’t observe any particular religion or belief but am interested in and see the appeal of various thoughts and teachings. Gandhi once said, “The need of the moment is not one religion, but mutual respect and tolerance of the devotees of the different religions.” I think we can learn a lot by widening our knowledge of religions.
I feel my past workplaces have been less than diverse in terms of religion for years. Not intentionally so, but from the office Christmas Tree to the compulsory December team turkey dinner, it’s mostly Christian values and traditions that are the norm in Welsh workplaces.
So is religion a consideration in the workplace? Should it be? Many would say it’s a personal lifestyle choice that it doesn’t impact on work, but I would argue that work is very much part of our lives and a good work-life balance is high on the agenda for most of us. Religious observance and work life need to work in harmony.I first became aware of how religion entwines with the workplace in 2013 when Nadia Eweida, a Christian British Airways employee, took a discrimination-at-work case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights and won. The Court ruled she was unfairly discriminated against when asked, as part of a uniform policy, to stop wearing a cross visibly. She successfully argued that the cross was a symbol of her faith.
The law protects from discrimination on the grounds of religion, religious belief and of having no belief, and of course religion can also be intrinsically linked to race. The Equality Act 2010 protects us all based on these characteristics and outlaws discrimination, whether direct or indirect. But what can we do to be more inclusive?
Give consideration to:
- Uniform rules – can women cover up or wear traditional coverings? Can people wear jewellery?
- Dietary requirements – what do caterers provide at your events?
- What work events are arranged? Do they always involve establishments that serve alcohol? Do you always meet at the same time, when others may be at worship?
- Job duties – do they include, for example, the handling of meat or alcohol?
There are plenty of rules, processes and activities in work that can indirectly discriminate against employees of various faiths. Such processes can create barriers to access work for many religious groups, often further linked to race.