Diversity Council Australia has today released a new resource to help workplaces move away from simply ‘accommodating’ the needs of their multi-faith employees, towards making workplaces inclusive for everyone in Australia’s increasingly religiously diverse workplaces.
The resource is designed to provide guidance to Australian workplaces about how to deal with a range of common faith-related queries, and also to provide workplaces with principles to help balance issues where conflicting rights might intersect.
DCA’s CEO, Lisa Annese, said that workplaces were crying out for a resource like this.
“We originally developed this guide over ten years ago, but a lot has changed in that time,” Lisa said.
“Australia is more religiously diverse than ever, while at the same time we have more people of no-faith than ever before.
“Workplaces are developing increasingly sophisticated diversity and inclusion policies, but when we consulted with our members about this issue, we heard that there was a lack of clarity about the legal landscape, and this was adversely impacting on their capacity to know how to best legally accommodate employee faith-related needs and requests.
“That’s one of the reasons we developed this approach, which is about moving away from just doing just what the law says, to the altogether higher aspiration of inclusion.
From legal accommodation to inclusion
“We know how powerful a tool inclusion is for workplaces. Our research shows it has benefits for businesses and individuals.
“Inclusion is a higher aspiration than simply meeting the legal requirements to accommodate people of faith (or no faith) at work.
“We wanted to set a higher bar – and elevate the conversations that we have each day so these respect and include all,” said Lisa.
Balancing competing rights
The resource also sets out a framework for situations where staff may have particular religious needs which might conflict with work requirements, added Lisa.
“A common question we receive at DCA is how to handle situations where someone’s religious beliefs challenge another person’s belief or identity, especially if this has an impact on the needs of the business.
“There are no simple answers, but DCA has developed a framework to help navigate some of these situations, based on the principle of inclusion – ensuring that all employees are respected, connected, and able to contribute and progress.
“At the moment, there is a big public debate about religion at work. What we are saying is, that rather than arguing about whether or not something is legal, let’s think about whether it’s respectful and inclusive. And if it’s not, then it’s probably not appropriate in a workplace, even if you think it comes from a place of love,” concluded Lisa.
Visit our website for the infographic or contact DCA for the member-only guidelines.
Media contact: Diane Falzon, 0430 596 699