5 ways to make a multi-faith workplace work

We know that there is a strong business case for having a diverse workforce, and we also know that it’s a challenging task to become truly inclusive. A huge part of this is ensuring your D&I strategy also includes religion and cultural inclusivity. A report by ComRes found that only a quarter of workers agree that their employers promote a clear understanding of religious beliefs and diversity. However in contrast to this, 91% of HR managers surveyed believe that they do promote religious D&I. So, it’s clear that currently, we’re not hitting the mark. What does a good inclusive strategy look like for religious beliefs? In this article we uncover 5 ways to make your multi-faith workplace work.

1. Diversity training 

The best place to start is to make sure all employees, managers or not, have a good understanding of the value of an inclusive workplace. Diversity training should be a compulsory training module across every organisation, ensuring all staff have an ability to apply inclusive principles to everything they do.

A good training programme should address all types of diversity, including race, culture and religion. It should teach employees how to embrace our differences and use them to create great work, and never to discriminate, judge or dismiss them.


2. Diversity in the hiring process

It’s commonly understood that every person is biased by nature, known as unconscious bias. But in order to create a truly diverse & multi-faith workplace, we need to find a way to dissipate these biases when it comes to recruitment. Things like blind hiring, neutral language on job descriptions and objective hiring criteria can help to make sure that no biases creep into play.

It’s also important to, if you can, involve a diverse set of people in the hiring panel. At Intel, the diversity of their hires increased by 14% after they changed their interview panels to include at least two people from underrepresented groups. 


3. Respect religious holidays

In the UK, there’s currently no law which gives the right for employees to have time off to observe their religious holidays. Our bank holiday structure very much reflects a Christian holiday calendar, with Easter & Christmas being at the forefront. However, not everyone celebrates these holidays, so why should they be obligated to only have leave at these times? In order to be truly inclusive and respectful of your employee’s beliefs, it’s best practice to allow employees to take time off when they want to celebrate their religious holidays. Annual leave requests should be treated with sensitivity and employers should be flexible when dealing with requests for religious holidays.


4. Inclusive dress codes

It’s reasonable for businesses to enforce a dress code, whether it’s a uniform or not. However, when it comes to religious garments, it’s easy to be open to criticism. In the UK, employers are required to “reasonably accommodate” the beliefs and needs of their staff under the Equality Act 2010. However it’s fair to say that there are situations in which this may become an issue. For example, if an item of clothing poses a health & safety risk in a manual labour job, it would be acceptable for the employer to not allow the employee to wear it. The best way to remain as inclusive and respectful as possible is to be as accepting as possible within the realms of health & safety when it comes to dress code.


5. Provide a room for prayers/reflection

As an employer, you should show willingness to accommodate your employee’s religious beliefs and needs. This might include providing a space where they can go to pray. This isn’t a legal requirement, however if you wish to be a truly inclusive multi-faith workplace, it’s best practice to find somewhere. If a dedicated room isn’t possible due to space constraints, a compromise may be to allocate a meeting room to this at certain times in the day. 

A diverse multi-faith workplace can have so many benefits, including increased innovation, retention and employee satisfaction. However, to close the gap between HR managers thinking they’re inclusive and the true beliefs of the employees in question, steps can be taken to ensure all cultural values are respected and addressed in a professional way.


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