Religion And Discrimination At Work

Religion in the Workplace

Religion can often be a touchy subject at work, for many it may be a subject that is too sensitive or uncomfortable to talk about whereas others may be open with their beliefs. Workplaces today can be seen to be trying to actively encourage diversity and inclusion to promote harmony at work and attempt to increase productivity.

An article we published in 2016 on OPInfo Blog discussed how a variety of diversity in the workplace can have positive impacts on performance and mindset. While there are active attempts to stop discrimination regarding gender, race, disability and sexual orientation; a recent report from ComRes has found that employers in the UK are struggling in regards to religion and belief.

Workers Feel Discriminated Due To Faith

The Belief At Work study looked into faith in the workplace and gathered informal information from both HR managers and employees in paid employment. The study found that 17% of people in the workplace had experienced someone else being bullied or discriminated against for a variety of reasons including age, sex, race, sexual orientation, religion and belief, disability and gender reassignment.

When asked whether they themselves had experienced any discrimination, a similar proportion responded (16%) responded yes. Although only 3% of British workers felt that they had been personally discriminated against due to their religion, this works out at an equivalent of one million people in the UK according to the total workforce in 2015.

Of note is that many people felt that there were moments where people felt uncomfortable at work due to their religion but didn’t feel that it was strong enough to warrant discrimination.

A quote from the study said: “In our office, everyone is very respectful of minorities and would never be disparaging about women or people with disabilities, but when it comes to religion it’s fair game. People can be very insulting, especially when they express it through humour.”

Employers Faltering On Religion

While HR departments may be very robust in dealing with discrimination complaints regarding to gender or race, in fact 91% said they would feel confident in dealing with these two issues, only 88% felt confident in dealing with religion and belief. HR managers felt least confident in dealing with concerns that related to gender reassignment, with only 67% feeling confident here.

In regards to religion and belief, 31 managers did not feel confident dealing with this issue with almost half (42%) saying it is because there is no policy or procedure to follow at their organisation. A third of respondents (33%) further said they had no training regarding this.

Organisations themselves are found to be faltering slightly in regards to religion and belief. Only 19% of workers who responded said that their employer makes provisions that allow them to pray during working hours, though the figure rose to 31% with workers who practice their faith actively.

A large majority of organisations do have written policies regarding religion and belief with 80% of HR managers responding that there are written policies that can be provided. The figure is found to be higher with those workers for larger companies with 86% responding yes for companies with over 500 employees whereas for companies with only 50499 employees the positive response was only 67%.

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Sarah Jubb
Sarah Jubb

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