HR, Equality and Religious Diversity – Part One
Posted on by Angela Rhodes
There are many issues associated with religion and belief in the workplace and issues must be addressed fairly and with sensitivity whilst supporting the needs of the business. Religion and belief are complex subjects that can sometimes evoke strong feelings. Faith is not always about religious observance, but extends to the way people live, including how they act at work. An employee may request abstinence from a task because it conflicts with their religious belief or might be unable to work on certain days or conform to a dress code because of their religion or belief. It is important that employers balance the needs of the individual employee with those of the business, whilst seeking to achieve a balance between making reasonable adjustments for that employee and ensuring that this doesn’t amount to less favourable treatment of employees who don’t follow a religion or have a belief. Showing sensitivity to the cultural and religious needs of employees can reap rewards in terms of a positive effect on the bottom of the business in several ways:
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- A business that respects the religions and beliefs of its employees is likely to be considered by employees and potential candidates as an employer of choice. This gives the employer access to a large talent pool.
- When staff feel respected and valued they are more likely to be productive and motivated. Unfair discrimination prevents people from performing to the best of their abilities and is wasteful of an organisation’s key resource: its people.
- Employees who feel that their employer respects their faith are likely to be more engaged, which can have a positive effect on retention.
- Fair employment practices, effective service delivery and excellent customer care are inextricably linked: a respected workforce is more likely to show respect for how the business operates and whether or not service users, clients and customers are satisfied.
- A workforce that includes people of different faiths and beliefs brings different perspectives, knowledge and insights to the business, which can benefit employers that operate in multi-cultural, multi-faith and global communities and markets. This can enable the business to understand diverse customer needs and new business opportunities and to design and deliver responsive services and products.
- Making reasonable adjustments for religion and belief can benefit a wider group of employees, by creating a more inclusive workplace though more transparent and flexible working practices.
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