How to Support Religious Diversity in the Workplace

woman wearing hijab while working

A workplace where diversity thrives is inclusive, positively impactful, and rich in ideas. With many people coming from different backgrounds, communities, and religions, the workplace is often more creative, high-performing, and engaging, among many other positive qualities.

Religious diversity is significant in the workplace. Religion is something that is not readily visible, unlike race and ethnicity. Hence, it is imperative that everyone in the workplace is aware of the religious differences and is respectful of each one.

With all that said, how can a workplace support religious diversity among its employees?

Here are several strategies that can help.

1. Educate employees

Education is a critical factor in supporting religious diversity in the workplace—or any given community, for that matter. Employees must be aware of the religious differences between themselves and their co-workers. In this way, they can be more mindful of their words and actions so that they do not inadvertently offend people belonging to a particular religious group.

Not all employees are aware of the intricacies of each religion, and this may be a root of insensitivities. A good way to increase awareness is by having a representative of each religion in the workplace educate others about their faith. For example, a Catholic employee can educate others about the basic principles of Catholic social teaching. During another educational session, a person from the Islamic faith can help non-Muslims understand halal. And so on.

2. Impose rules against religious hate

Unfortunately, not everyone in the workplace will be understanding or sensitive about their co-workers’ faith. And sometimes, the management has to get rid of some bad apples to maintain the harmonious diversity among employees. Imposing a zero-tolerance rule against religion-related hate is a good place to start. With this kind of policy in place, employees will be more mindful of what they say and do to avoid the repercussions.

Furthermore, discrimination is a grave offense in the workplace, whether it is committed by the employer or employees. That said, imposing this kind of rule can also help prevent costly discrimination lawsuits.

3. Put up a silent room

A quiet room can serve as a space for reflection or prayer for both religious and non-religious employees. Provide access to everyone regardless of their religion (which is also why it is better to call it a quiet room rather than a prayer room) so that they do not need to leave the workplace or stick with an uncomfortable space to observe their religious duties. Furthermore, this room should not contain any religious symbols to be inclusive of everyone.

team meeting

4. Accommodate religious wear

Some religions require individuals to wear certain articles of clothing, such as a hijab or kippah. If the workplace has a uniform, the management should accommodate religious wear as much as possible or otherwise provide alternatives to the regular uniform.

5. Provide time off for religious holidays

Workplaces leading in religious diversity have started to allow employees to apply religious holidays that are not covered by public holidays underpaid, unpaid, or annual leave. Doing so can make employees happier and more appreciated at work, which ultimately positively impacts the workplace.

6. Be mindful of dietary restrictions

Some religious people follow dietary restrictions according to their beliefs. For example, people who belong to the Islamic faith follow halal, a dietary standard prescribed by the Qu’ran. Others may also refrain from drinking alcohol.

That said, workplaces need to be mindful of possible dietary standards that their employees may have. For instance, if the office offers free snacks in the pantry, there should also be halal options if there are Muslim employees. If there are employees who cannot eat certain types of meat, lunch parties should offer alternatives for everyone. And during social events, non-alcoholic beverages should also be served alongside alcoholic ones.

7. Emphasize respect for all religions during orientation

Every employee that enters the workplace must be aware of the rules against discrimination on their very first day. Emphasizing respect for all religions can help ensure that every new hire knows how to act accordingly when encountering such religious diversity at work. Furthermore, if they belong to a certain religion, doing so can make them feel safer and more accepted amongst their new co-workers.

Like race, ethnicity, age, and gender, religion must not face discrimination, especially in the workplace. With these strategies, employers can provide better support for religious diversity among their employees and build a more harmonious relationship in the process.

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