A study by consultancy ComRes shows that British employers are struggling to manage expressions of faith in the workplace and suggests up to a million people in Britain may have experienced workplace harassment, discrimination or bullying because of their religion or belief.
Our feature earlier this week looked at how employers can make space for religion at work and the ways faith can make a workforce more diverse.
Yet Marketing Week readers seem to have a different opinion. A number of comments underneath the article suggested people “leave religion at home” and that people “go to work to WORK”. A Twitter poll with 110 votes shows 36% think religion does not belong in the work place, 32% think it should be acknowledged and just 14% believe HR policies are needed. A further 18% literally don’t care.
I completely understand that the research doesn’t ask whether there’s a place for religion in the workplace as a starting point.
But that argument is voided by the fact that the study is grounded in the real concerns of business leaders who are trying to pre-emptively tackle the subject as part of a diversity and inclusion push. I’m not sure people who say it has no place at work have grasped that part of the research.
As an atheist with friends and colleagues of all faiths and differing beliefs I would 100% stand beside, in front of or behind them if their religion or faith caused conflict at work that led to any harassment, discrimination or bullying.
But therein lies the issue. The topic is usually raised and dealt with when there is conflict, rather than putting practises in place to avoid that clash.
This is what businesses are worried about and one of the reasons why ComRes opened its research division focusing on faith – to help companies navigate what can be a tricky subject.
One reader comment said: “Tolerance of any protected characteristic i.e. The Equality Act (2010) should be promoted. But you have to draw the line somewhere where it is fair to everyone.”
Outwardly expressing your faith and beliefs is a personal choice but so is declaring your sexuality. Does that mean there shouldn’t be practises or policies, if needed, to protect people from work-based harassment when related to sexuality, or gender, or age?
Do those things affect everyone? And would you want to work for an employer that doesn’t address all forms of work place harassment, bullying and discrimination?
Although all these areas of diversity are in themselves very diverse, with extremely different challenges and opportunities, I don’t see religion as being so far removed to not justify businesses at least starting to look at what the opportunities and risks are.
I’m with this one reader who quite simply said: “I believe that regardless of where you work, what you do or who you are, no one should ever feel ashamed of what they believe in. Faith is a key component to diversity and without that the world would be a very boring place.”