Oct 13

Supporting religious observance at work

It might only be October, but lots of us are already casting our minds forward to Christmas, whether that’s buying gifts and decorations, planning the final details of the Christmas party or working out a team cover plan for those limbo-like days in between Christmas and New Year.

Whilst the UK’s official religion is Christianity, and we have public holidays around the major Christian festivals or observances, how does this compare to your workforce? The most recent census data (2011) reported that in England and Wales almost 8.5% of the population reported themselves to be another religion and 25% consider themselves to be of no religion. Whilst a large number of those who are not Christian may still celebrate Christmas in some way, they may also wish to take part in their own religious observances or festivals at other times of the year.

Supporting your people

No matter how many people you employ, creating an inclusive and supportive work environment is vital to get the best out of your people and to retain them. A simple way of demonstrating this support and inclusive attitude is to have a policy, formal or informal, on supporting religious observance at work.

What should be considered and included

We recommend that business leaders are clear on how they can support people with their religious observances, and often the simplest way is a written policy. This policy should cover:

  • How to request time off for religious observance – such as giving as much notice as possible to ensure holiday can be approved, and first come, first served approach to approving holiday where there might be conflicting requests.
  • How to request a temporary change to working pattern due to religious observance. For example an employee who is observing Ramadan (a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community observed by Muslims) may wish to alter their working pattern temporarily to facilitate this.
  • How the business will treat these requests and balance the needs of the business alongside.
  • What facilities you have available to support religious observance, such as a quiet room for prayer, or facilities for storing food.
  • Where employees can get support – this might be via your HR team, line managers or employee support groups


If you do choose to have a policy in place to support your employees religious observance at work, it’s also important to train your managers on how to manage this appropriately. This could be something that is covered along with other equality, diversity and inclusion training.

If you think your organisation would benefit from some HR expertise in this area, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at . Let us support you so you can support your people.

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