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How to handle holidays for religious employees

December 10, 2021

By HR Reporter

With winter holidays just around the corner, many employers may be faced with employee requests around taking time off for holidays that are not necessarily Judeo-Christian-based.

And when thinking about how to make things fair for those workers, there is one overriding principle that should be kept at top of mind, according to a workplace expert.
“It’s equity — not that you have to be the same to everybody but there has to be some equity across the organization so people don’t feel that they’re being treated differently,” says Shai Dubey, adjunct assistant professor and distinguished faculty fellow of business law at the Smith School of Business in Kingston Ont.

“[For] many people, religion is a very important part of defining who they are and so when their beliefs are not respected, it really is they’re not respected.”

With many newcomers regularly coming to Canada, this crucial aspect of their identities must be respected in organizations, says Dubey.

“As more and more immigrants are coming to the country, religion is actually a much stronger piece and research is showing that of those coming to the country, it’s something that they hang on to; it’s part of their culture that they bring and so when you come to a brand new country, you may not fit into the religious majority that happens to be here.”

It’s a good idea to be aware of the diversity of the workforce in communications and activity planning, says another expert.

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