Written Friday 12th July 2019

9 Ways To Observe Religious Holidays In The Workplace

The beginning of June marked the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and reflection for the Muslim community. 

We posted a thread on Twitter about how to support your Muslim colleagues during Ramadan, through means such as celebrating staff birthdays with something other than food and scheduling meetings to accommodate additional prayer time – and it got us to thinking. Of course, Ramadan is just one example of a religious holiday that may impact your employees. How can you support religious holidays in your office throughout the year?

Here’s nine ways to get started and support religious holidays in your workplace.

  1. Keep track of upcoming key religious days and observances. There’s plenty of information online listing key dates (we recommend checking out timeanddate.com). You could even create your own cultural calendar on the company intranet for employees to directly add to
  2. Connect with your colleagues. Send out a survey to better understand different holidays and how employees would like to be supported and support one another during them
  3. Consider the practical elements of observing religious holidays. Offer, for example, a quiet and private space for prayer and meditation in the office
  4. Host speakers both internal and external to talk about different religious holidays, what they mean and how they’re celebrated, to raise awareness and create a culture of inclusivity
  5. Consider employees’ religions when organising food for meetings or events. Members of the Jewish community, for example, don’t eat pork, while Muslims fast during Ramadan and many Hindus avoid meat and eggs
  6. Avoid scheduling all-company events and meetings on major holiday dates, and offer flexibility around scheduling meetings to accommodate people’s religious celebrations
  7. Make sure your annual leave quota allows for people to take time off for religious holidays; most companies unconsciously work from a Christian-based holiday schedule. Some companies use a “floating holidays” system to allow workers to take time off for holidays that aren’t officially celebrated in the company calendar 
  8. Avoid being unconsciously bias towards a particular religion. Throw, for example, an end of year celebration instead of a Christmas party, and use non-secular decorations (like snowflakes) instead of a Christmas tree
  9. Have fun! Religious holidays are a good opportunity to bring your employees together. Encourage sharing cultural celebrations in the workplace, through means such as bringing in special dishes (like Indian mithai sweets during Diwali or latkes at Hannukah) or circulating a newsletter featuring photos of employees celebrating, both in and outside of work.

The first step to improving diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is raising awareness   observing religious holidays is no exception. Start conversations about the days that matter to your employees and encourage them to share their stories (if they’re comfortable doing so). 

Being a diverse workplace doesn’t have to mean actively celebrating every religious holiday there is but it does mean creating a culture where employees feel comfortable and able to openly observe the days that are important to them.

We work with a huge range of companies to help them build a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Get in touch to find out how we could help you, too.