How to Develop an Inclusive Multi-Faith Workplace


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, January 11, 2021

Creating a multi-faith workplace requires a number of strategies that foster inclusivity and understanding between employees.

Article 4 Minutes
How to Develop an Inclusive Multi-Faith Workplace

Religion in the workplace is a multifaceted topic that can lead to issues for HR departments. As well as ensuring employees feel safe and included within an organization’s culture, it’s also important to stay on the right side of the law.

High-profile cases in recent years, including that of a baker not wishing to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding due to their own religious convictions, have brought legal requirements into focus. They’ve also demonstrated how routine work situations can become more complicated when religion clashes with business principles.

It’s therefore vital to have a clear strategy to ensure your workplace is inclusive to all faiths. That way the company culture should ensure your business knows how to deal with issues as they emerge and to attract the best possible talent and retain it.

1. Have a written policy on religion

Waiting for an issue to arise isn’t a good way to approach your organization’s stance on religion and its relationship to the everyday workings of your business. It’s vital to have an established policy documented in electronic and written form to reference. Making it available to staff so they know exactly what it contains and welcoming input will aid transparency and show your commitment to a multi-faith workplace.

2. Be consistent

Creating an atmosphere of tolerance means being consistent with all and any issues that arise. Refer back to the written policy and make it clear that any targeting of colleagues based on their religion won’t be tolerated. Try not to overreact to small issues, but be sure there’s a clear process for dealing with unreasonable behavior. This way people of every faith can feel safe coming to work each day.

3. Support religious expression

Being aware of the diverse religions followed by your workforce and allowing religious expression can be good for business. It can lead to higher levels of loyalty and the retention of talent.

“Religious identity can also function as a coping mechanism, and the associated values and practices – such as compassion and helping – can enhance work, particularly in specific occupations such as mental and physical health professions, which benefit from the ability to relate and offer emotional support to clients or patients.” - Dr YingFei Héliot, lecturer in organizational behavior at the University of Surrey

4. Keep track of religious days

Keeping a calendar of religious days across multiple faiths will help you to understand when events that are important for your staff are coming up. Refer to it regularly and act accordingly, whether this means being aware of your actions and not eating in front of a Muslim during Ramadan or avoiding scheduling meetings or presentations at the time of a big holiday. It could just mean you comment on it in front of the staff, highlighting that nobody should feel like they need to hide their religion.

5. Avoid unconscious bias

Many companies work from a Christian-based schedule in which businesses are often closed or time off is automatically given to employees during the Christmas period. This immediately doesn’t recognize the importance of other religions. Similarly, rewarding staff with a Christmas party and putting up decorations associated with the Christian holiday ostracizes members of your team from other faiths. Think about adaptable leave handling and displaying secular decorations.

6. Create multi-faith quiet rooms

Dedicating a quiet space in the office that employees know they can use for prayer or meditation will encourage some staff to practice their religion. It sends out the signal that you’re conscious of their needs and keen to accommodate them. The room should be available to those of all faiths and also anybody without a religion looking for space to partake in quiet reflection.

7. Encourage cultural sharing

Holidays are an opportunity to bring people together and there’s no reason why you can’t recognize special days from different religions. Cultural sharing allows staff to learn about each other’s faiths and take joy from them. Whether it’s sharing a dish traditionally eaten at that time, bringing special items into the office or arranging a speaker to educate employees on the rituals associated with a holiday, there’s lots of potential for cultural sharing.

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