Are non-Christian employees represented in your vacation policies?
In the United States, many businesses’ vacation schedules were built during a time when most workers were Christians. Today, a third of Americans do not identify as Christians, and that percentage has increased. When granting time off to employees for religious holidays, companies should take steps to recognize this; one tactic is to give people “floating holidays” that they can use flexibly instead of designating some religious days as more important than others.
Adapting to a religiously diverse workplace is not just a good to have practice; it becomes more and more a must have for business leaders and business leaders. For 15 years, I have worked for Interfaith core of youth (IFYC), a nonprofit organization in Chicago dedicated to advancing interfaith cooperation in the United States. The number one question I get from my peers in business and nonprofit spaces is not about the latest hot topic related to religious identity – it’s usually a version of this: “As an interfaith organization , how do you manage religious holidays for your employees? “
It is not surprising that this question arises more and more. Religious diversity in American business is a fact. Although nearly two-thirds of Americans identify as Christians, that number is down 12% over the past decade, according to Pew Center for Research on Religion and Public Life, and the number of people in America who identify as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu is increasing, as is the number of people who identify as having no religious affiliation. For decades, the holiday calendars of many companies have been geared around major Christian holidays. As people who practice other religions become a large part of the talent base, these changes require internal HR and DCI efforts to update the way they handle policies relating to religious holidays – so that people can have free time to celebrate religious holidays that are meaningful to them. , their families and their communities.
Welcoming the religious diversity of employees can even be a competitive advantage. The Human Resources Company highlights studies that show that when employers are careful to recognize and heed the religious traditions of their employees, levels of employee engagement and retention increase. More and more businesses and businesses are reaching out to IFYC, asking us to advise them on issues of religious accommodation and interfaith engagement for their employees and clients.
What can companies do to accommodate employees who need religious observance time off?
One possible instinct is to close for all religious holidays, but that would quickly become untenable. Through some estimates, in 2021, there are around 176 religious holidays. Closing the office even for a third of these holidays would be a failure for most organizations. Another potential strategy is to pick and choose specific religious holidays to observe as a business, but this strategy quickly becomes complicated at best and problematic at worst. This would, by default, leave some community members and traditions aside, and therefore fail to achieve the ultimate goal of showing respect for the diversity of the worldview. (At IFYC, we intentionally use the term ‘worldview’ to describe a guiding philosophy or a view of life, which may be based on a particular religious tradition, spiritual orientation, non-religious perspective, or a combination of these). The ideal is to go beyond simple “accommodation”, it is to show employees that company leaders appreciate, respect and welcome this aspect of their identity.
Below are some practical and meaningful ways in which your organization can support its employees of various faiths:
Consider offering your employees a floating vacation: Our organization’s vacation policy is simple. We offer 5 floating holidays, to be used as the employee chooses to use them. Companies can offer floating vacations in addition to other paid vacations. Our organization offers employees federal paid holidays, with the exception of Christmas Day (since Christmas Day is also a religious holiday). As a committed Christian, I found it odd at first to have to apply for Christmas time off, but this experience has helped me to better appreciate my non-Christian colleagues who are used to such procedures to observe their days. more holy. .
Combine all floating vacation policies with generous PTO: Combining our floating holidays with a generous PTO policy is important, especially because some religious traditions have more than five holidays. For example, there is up to 13 Jewish holidays per year which may require missing work. A colleague of mine observes the 13s every year, so she uses all of her 5 floating vacations and completes the extra time needed with the PTO. Providing generous power take-offs and floating vacations gives employees ample free time to observe religious, secular or spiritual holidays or traditions that are important to them while having sufficient free time for other purposes.
Pay attention to the language: Language is important, and that’s why we use the term “floating holidays” instead of “religious holidays”. At IFYC, more than a third of our team members identify as secular, humanist, agnostic, atheist or non-religious. This policy allows them to be absent for any holiday or practice that is particularly meaningful to them, which may not be related to religious observance.
Implement other flexible policies to support your employees: In addition to having leave policies that support religious accommodation for the holiday celebration, it is also strategic to have other flexible policies in place. If you don’t already have a flexible hours policy, consider offering your employees options to adjust their schedules, so that your team members have the flexibility to work flexible hours during special times of the day. religious observance. For example, during Ramadan, a holy month where many Muslims fast during daylight hours, many of my Muslim colleagues will start the work day early and finish early to adjust to energy levels during the fast.
Strengthen your religious literacy: As a manager, you can’t be expected to know everything there is to know about all the different religious traditions, but have basic religious literacy to help you navigate one of the more complex aspects of American life is a good investment in your direction. It only takes a few minutes to get started. Take IFYC Interfaith Literacy Quiz in 10 Questions to test your knowledge, and consult the IFYC knowledge toolkit for religious literacy to learn more about less appreciated or misunderstood traditions.
To ask questions: Open a space to encourage your team members to share key tenets of their beliefs or traditions that may result in accommodation requests, especially regarding food needs, vacations, clothing, and prayer requirements .
Don’t make assumptions: Do not assume that you know which festivals followers of a particular tradition observe or how they observe them. For example, if Americans experience a Hindu holiday, it is normally Diwali, but many people may not know that Jains and Sikhs also observe Diwali for different reasons. Another example: in Jewish tradition, Chanukah is perhaps the most famous holiday due to its proximity to Christmas, but it is usually not as important as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or three pilgrimage festivals (Easter, Shavuot, and Sukkot) and generally does not require missing work. I do not know ? Ask!
It’s also important to note that adjusting to religious holidays is just one way to support your religiously diverse workplace. For us at IFYC, providing a work environment that respects the religious or non-religious traditions and observances of each employee is extremely important, as our job ultimately is to go further by creating spaces where people who orient themselves differently around of religion can build relationships and work for the common good.