Including Faith/Religious Inclusivity As Part Of Your DEI Strategy

30th Jan 2023

World Religion Day was held on the 15th of January, 2023, when people from different faiths were encouraged to talk to one another. Faith and religion are important to billions of people worldwide, but a topic often dismissed within the workplace. To commemorate and support this day, we wanted to help raise awareness on why / how companies can implement faith-inclusive work policies to build a more diverse, inclusive and supportive working environment to benefit both businesses and employees. 

People should feel safe and comfortable, showing up to work as their true selves. Religious identity is often a source of motivation in turn contributing to well-being and performance. 

Discrimination due to religious beliefs

Faith will naturally make up a very big part of a person's belief system and therefore be a part of day-to-day life. Religious beliefs should be respected, but sometimes within the workplace, there may often be discrimination that religious minorities, in particular, might face. 

All types of discrimination can go undetected, with incidents not always being reported. This could include anything from subtle comments being made, feeling as if your opportunities are more limited than others or simply not being included or judged for not wanting to participate in certain activities; sometimes, discrimination can also be difficult to prove. 

Let’s take the drink culture associated with work as an example i.e. popping to the pub at lunch or going after-work drinks. Religion doesn’t necessarily have to be a reason for someone choosing not to drink - many people choose not to for health reasons or as a personal preference. Employees who choose not to attend because of religious beliefs might face stigma and be labelled as boring or disengaged, which could affect working relationships and impact career progression. Non-drinkers are often faced with the typical question, “aren’t you drinking?” which can come across as very judgemental; if we look at this from another perspective, we wouldn’t ask a vegetarian, "aren’t you eating meat?”. It's not to say companies shouldn't go for drinks at lunch or after work; it's more about being mindful that not everyone will want to attend, and no employee should be penalised for this.

Being more understanding, accepting and mindful of the fact that others have different values and beliefs is highly important, not just for society in general but for the workplace too.

How to create a faith inclusive workplace

Create inclusive policies and procedures

Policies and procedures will need to be created to form part of your DEI strategy. HR should ensure that these policies and procedures are reviewed regularly, adapting this to the business's needs while staying in line with legal requirements. Policies should ensure that employees are not disadvantaged because of their religion or lack of. 

Disclaimer: It’s always important to seek legal / professional advice when it comes to updating policies and procedures. 

Ensure your recruitment process is non-discriminatory 

Employers that want to attract a diverse pool of candidates must ensure that their recruitment process is non-discriminatory. 

In job descriptions, you can, for example, use positive statements welcoming underrepresented groups to apply - this can help to attract a more diverse pool of applicants. If using employment agencies, they should be instructed to take the necessary steps to reach a wide group of suitable candidates. 

Farah, SEO & Content Lead at Flexa Careers, has faced her own experience of discrimination during the recruitment process in the past.

“A few years ago, I applied for a job and was selected by the recruitment agency as a suitable candidate - they referred my CV to the employer. The recruitment agency contacted me back shortly after mentioning that my CV wasn’t of interest. I asked for feedback as to why - only to be told that the employer did not wish to employ anyone with an ‘ethnic’ background. The recruiter seemed shocked herself and apologised profusely. I wasn’t aware of who this employer was as it was yet to be disclosed - it baffles me to this day that a company can think this is okay. A person's race or religion never reflects a persons skills or abilities.”

This is a prime example of what we shouldn’t be seeing. 

Take steps to create faith and religious inclusion

Companies can take various actionable steps to create a faith / religious inclusive workplace.

  • Provide training to raise awareness and minimise misconceptions that could be held around religion.
  • Create multi-faith internal groups to ensure faith / religious inclusion is being implemented well. 
  • Allowing time off for observing religious occasions. 
  • Giving consideration and understanding for requests to pray - ensuring a dedicated prayer or meditation space is provided and inclusive of different religions. Flexified company Accurx is a great example - highlighting the importance of faith inclusivity within their company benefits, offering a prayer, meditation and breastfeeding room for those who need it. 
  • Ensuring that dress code requirements take into consideration religious beliefs.  
  • Being considerate of employees' cultural and religious needs when organising workplace events and accommodating dietary requirements. 
  • Provide flexible working options, making it easier for individuals to practise religion.
  • Set out specific policies for unacceptable behaviour relating to religion and beliefs. 

How flexible working can support practising religion

For many individuals they might feel more comfortable practising their religion at home; for example, practising Muslims observing the five daily prayers - it’s a lot easier to plan your work around prayers when at home, particularly as the timings change throughout the year. Observing the month of Ramadan can also be more difficult when working from the office.

Allowing flexible working makes it possible to account for most employees' needs. Others might need flexibility for other reasons; this includes those who are working parents / pawrents, have an illness or disability, caring responsibilities or other personal commitments. 

Flexible working can not only help support employees by making them feel more comfortable, but it can also help improve happiness levels which can positively impact productivity.