Religion In The Workplace.
I am sure by now, you would have heard about the controversy surrounding the banning of the Hijab in a local school in Indian. Videos have surfaced online of students removing being stopped from entering the school premises unless they remove their Hijab.
This comes hot on the heels of many European countries also banning the Hijab in a work setting.
Living in a multiracial, multicultural country, reading/seeing things like this brings up a lot of anxiety.
How do we practice tolerance and acceptance when the world around us is so hell bent on doing the opposite?
I doubt there is any special formula for this but I do know from experience that accepting an employee’s identity is the starting piece to a perfect work jigsaw puzzle. Although religious behavior and viewpoints can result in conflict at work, religion can also inspire positive virtues to emerge in the workplace. For example, religion can positively influence a worker’s loyalty, morale, and communication.
A report published in 2019 by the International Commission of Jurists in cooperation with the International Panel of Parliamentarian for Freedom of Religion or Beliefs scrutinised the protection and enjoyment of the freedom of religion or belief in Malaysia. Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country with 61.3% Sunni Muslim (data published by the Malaysian Department of Statistics in 2010, up to date data is not available). The remaining population consist of 19.8% Buddhist; 9.2% Christian; 6.3% Hindu; 1.3% adherents of traditional Chinese religions and 0.4% other religions. Malaysia is also ethnically diverse. Religion and ethnicity have always played an important role in politics and society. Indeed, as the report confirms “Ethnicity and religion have often been utilised by political parties to advance their agenda.”
As Employers, what can you do to ensure acceptance of religious diversity in the workplace?
Using our wits and vast experience across many years, we at Traitily have come up with 5 Steps to help you on this.
Proper religion physical attributions like the hijab, turban for men and even beard should be allowed. Any religious attire and symbols that poses no health or safety risk to anybody, can and shouldn’t be a hindrance to an individual to practice their beliefs.
Give time off for religious holidays. Even the minor ones. A little goes a long way. Be mindful of prayer times/days of some religions and where possible give allocated time off without jeopardizing the integrity of the business.
Have a multifunctional space, where employees can fulfill their religious obligations, meditations or personal reflections.
If your work environment has a pantry, consider offering food/drinks that are also halal, vegan and kosher. At the same time, if there is a need to have an office outing or party, take into consideration all the religious dietary needs of your employees. Don’t forget that certain religions, also require fasting periods, so bear that in mind when planning your social calendar.
Always keep an open communication policy when it comes to issues that are deemed “sensitive”. Create a group or appoint certain individuals to take charge of ensuring all religious checkboxes are ticked off. Keep a discussion on best practices, what can be done better and to address any concerns.
Dont forget, establishments that provide a well rounded experience for their employees by supporting the practice of religion, spirituality and beliefs at work, tend to have a more productive and harmonious workforce.
For further readings on Religious Practices At Work, check out this article published by Forbes
You can also check out this article by AbacAcademies for more insight.
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