Good practices to manage religious diversity at work

Religious diversity in the workplace receives increasing attention in Europe. While the topic is often considered either taboo, a question of personal values or a challenge of compatibility, practical ways to reconcile a secular vision of the workplace and respect of diversity and personal religious choices are becoming more common.

Employers and religious minorities alike continue to experience difficulties at various stages of employment, from the recruitment process, to progression in work, to the daily work routine. One main reason for this is that religion (or some associated practices, behaviours or values) is often seen as incompatible with working in a secular environment. However, there need not be a trade-off between religious freedom and a productive working environment. A new toolkit, published by The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) explores various ways for employers to manage religious diversity in the workplace.

On 28 pages, the latest publication of ENAR’s Equal@work Platform outlines some of the existing barriers in the field, presents real-case studies, and describes experiences of discrimination, misunderstandings and cultural divides, which may hinder the effective inclusion of religious minorities in the workplace and hence their engagement.

The chapter on barriers provides an overview of different types of challenges that may result from rigid schedules, dress codes or intersections with other dimensions of diversity including gender or ethnicity.

‘Rethinking neutrality’ provides a powerful paradigm for practitioners to understand the varying impact seemingly neutral regulations may have on people from different religious backgrounds. Once more, CV testing serves as an example for such unintended and largely invisible impact. Shaping the workplace in an open and inclusive way is described so as to accommodate religious diversity, for example through a deeper understanding of dignity and respect, through reasonable accommodation or through universal solutions that will be beneficial for all (e.g. holiday policies).

The toolkit also includes a (very) short checklist for employers by which they can assess their performance on religious diversity and start to improve the inclusion of religious minorities in the workplace. The publication offers an additional resource for employers wishing to fully engage in creating an equal, dignified and diverse workplace by respecting religious diversity within their workforce.

The new ENAR guide can be found on this website.

Similar publications were presented in Germany in 2016 and – more comprehensive – by the AFMD in France in 2013.