Many religious workers don't feel comfortable expressing faith in the workplace - study

(Photo: Unsplash/Headway)

A major study has found that many religious workers in the UK and US feel uncomfortable expressing their faith in the workplace.

The study by consultancy group Pearn Kandola asked the views of over 6,000 US and UK workers who follow Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Christianity.

Among the key findings, nearly half (47%) of survey participants did not feel comfortable discussing the religious festivals they celebrate while at work.

Only around a third (36%) felt that their line manager was happy for them to take time off for religious festivals.

A fifth (19%) reported having requests for annual leave to celebrate a religious holiday or festival rejected by their employer.

Less than a quarter (23%) were prepared to wear religious dress or symbols at work and of those who did, only 16% said they felt comfortable doing so.

The report noted a mix of some positive and negative outcomes as a result of expressing faith at work.

Positive outcomes included better awareness and understanding, improved relationships with co-workers and increased well-being at work.

Negative outcomes included "stereotyping and discrimination; being mocked and mistreated; being excluded, and having a sense of isolation".

In some cases, there was a conflict between work schedules and religious observance.

"Work schedules made religious observance difficult for some. For example, some Jewish employees were unable to observe the Sabbath and some Christians to observe Sunday due to being required to work over the weekend. In a similar vein, some Muslims were unable to attend Friday prayers," the study found.

Pearn Kandola said in the report, "Our research has demonstrated that although there are many positive benefits to expressing religious beliefs at work, there are barriers which prevent people from doing so.

"Many people are not receiving the support they need to express or practice their religious beliefs at work.

"Religion is often overlooked within diversity and inclusion strategies, which may lead to managers being unaware of the accommodations that their employees may need to express or observe their beliefs.

"In an organisation where religious expression is perceived to be discouraged, employees may feel unable to communicate their needs to their employer."

The report's recommendations for businesses include "understanding and reducing bias regarding religion" and ensuring policies are in place to prevent workplace harassment on the grounds of religion.

The report added, "[Our] research has highlighted that many people do not feel comfortable expressing their religious beliefs at work.

"When an organisation lacks this sense of inclusion and openness, employees may fear the consequences of expressing their religious beliefs, or face judgement and exclusion if they decide to disclose their beliefs."