How time off and being inclusive in the workplace are connected
Engagement 3 minute read

How time off and being inclusive in the workplace are connected

Megan Orr | January 6, 2022

As workplaces continue to diversify, many organizations need to work harder on being inclusive in the workplace and continuing to support each of their employees.

Canada’s only two religious statutory holidays, Christmas Day and Good Friday, are both Christian celebrations. Many people who participate in these celebrations view them as secular and don’t associate the days with any particular faith. However, those who don’t celebrate may be wondering why their religious holidays aren’t included in the workplace calendar. 

Generally, employers are obligated to abide by the human rights code which states that “employers have a duty to accommodate an employee’s creed to the point of undue hardship, including by providing time off for religious holidays”. Though, as Benefits Canada explains, “ensuring adherence to the human rights code doesn’t necessarily mean granting time off for every religious-related activity” but rather understanding which practices are protected. 

As Forbes writes, research shows that “employees who feel included at work [are] more engaged and more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work”. Additionally, Forbes notes that “inclusive workplaces are six times more likely to be innovative and twice as likely to meet or surpass financial goals” and “employees who feel able to bring their whole selves to work are 42% less likely to plan on leaving for another position within a year”. 

Being inclusive in the workplace is an investment in your employees and your workplace as a whole. 

Benefits Canada gives the example of resource consultancy firm Bright + Early, which offers employees three paid spiritual days that they can take at their discretion in addition to the Christian-centric statutory holidays they already get off. Bright + Early employees “are grateful for the additional days and consistently use them”. The policy is also inclusive of atheists and agnostics, with Bright + Early describing the days as “cultural leave days annually for religious or cultural events that are not on the government calendar (or just reconnecting with yourself)”. 

When it comes to being inclusive in the workplace, simply meeting a requirement of ‘no undue hardship’ may not seem like enough. 

Here are some other ways that organizations are focusing on being inclusive in the workplace: 

  • Ensure all managers, supervisors, HR associates, etc. are educated on the various religions and different practices of employees so that they can appropriately respond to any requests for accommodation. 
  • Offer regular check-ins for employees where they are able to share their experiences and thoughts freely. This will create an open dialogue and environment of trust between employee and employer. 
  • Ensure that policies around discrimination are clear and readily available to all employees. Forbes notes that “while leader and manager behaviour is important to perceptions of inclusion at work, interactions between peers is paramount”.
  • Consider hosting your holiday celebrations/staff appreciation in the new year so it’s not attached to any one specific holiday. 
  • Ensure you offer employees flexibility so that they’re able to take breaks during their workday, whether it’s going for a walk or for prayer. 

Being inclusive in the workplace ultimately isn’t about checking certain boxes—acknowledged Lunar New Year, check ✅—but rather, ensuring that your employees feel safe and are able to be themselves in your organization.

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