Key Issues in Religious Discrimination Approached from a Human Resources Point of View


Globalization has transformed society by influencing demographics within populations. In turn, this affects the diversity of the workplace settings by facilitating the easy movement of people from one place to another, thus increasing the populations of the minority groups working in various companies. In the UK, for example, the 2010 census indicated an increase in non-Christians to 4.7 million from 3.1 million in 2001, which had been attributed to immigration (Webley 4). Now, with the rise of such a diversity, cultural peculiarities, ethnicity, and religion have become more prominent issues than in the previous years. Contrary to the notion that having a diverse population is equal to having a successful diversity management, the former alone is not enough for the success of any organization. Therefore, companies must ensure that their policies reflect an understanding of a cultural diversity of their employees and inclusion programs that enable these workers to overcome the challenges that arise from these differences. Religious difference is one of the challenges for HR management that comes with this diversification of workforce since it raises issues of religious accommodation, fairness in policies, and employee commitment as well as employee engagement.

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Defining Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination is not a new occurrence in the workplace setting. With the increase in diversity, organizations hire employees from various religious backgrounds. However, when such people interact, conflicts might arise because of the differences in their moral and ethical beliefs. Religious discrimination takes various forms and often involves valuing or treating an individual or a group of people differently because they are from a different religious background or because of their feelings towards a certain religion (Garnett 496). This prejudice is mostly perceived and it begins when individuals start feeling that they do not receive equal or fair treatment due to their religious differences. In organizational settings, this sense of intolerance is more pronounced in some sectors such as recruitment, organizational culture, employee relations, and financial departments (Ghumman 442). Just like any other form of discrimination in the workplace, religious biasness has negative impacts on companies. Such an intolerance ranges from the attitudes and actions of employees towards one another to management practices that affect the religious lives of their employees, especially their dress code and the scheduling of religious holidays. Following the heightened awareness of the rights of employees, many people seek to have their religious accommodation in the workplace as well. Such requests could create conflicts for human resource managers. Nevertheless, these issues are on the surface of deeper underlying problems such as employee commitment as well as personal engagement.

Religious Accommodation

Today, many companies feel the impact of diversity on their staff composition. In the past years, many organizations faced charges of discrimination on various grounds, including religious basis. Consequently, it is important to protect the welfare of employees and prevent companies from facing such charges (SHRM). These measures range from those adopted by companies or labor organizations to those enforced by various nations. Many countries have enacted laws and regulations that seek to protect employees from prejudice on the basis of their religion. In the USA, for example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates that all employers must accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of their employees within reasonable range (SHRM). This accommodation includes making adjustments to the workplace environment to allow employees follow their religious practices or deeply rooted ethical or moral beliefs. For example, some religious beliefs mandate their followers not to work on specific days. In this case, employers and such employees can develop a work schedule that allows the latter to work overtime to cover for the time they will be away. Research conducted in various companies has established that employees in the companies that respect their religious beliefs experience higher job satisfaction. The benefits of religious tolerance stream down to the companies that enjoy higher productivity from their employees as well as improved capacity to attract the best talent on the market. Despite the fact that the law mandates employers to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees, it also recognizes the fact that in some instances, accommodating such practices can impose unnecessary distress to the employers (Ghumman 444). Therefore, employers must always strive to tolerate the religious beliefs of their employees if such accommodation does not interfere with the organization and its goals.

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Policy Issues

In companies, the issue of religious tolerance, in turn, extends to policies, procedures, and practices. The reason for this is that such policies as flexible scheduling, job reassignment, and voluntary substitutions are some of the ways, by which companies reduce religious discrimination and promote positive work environments where their employees can work without hindrances. Evidently, the policy that a company adopts either promotes or discourages religious discrimination (SHRM). Nevertheless, when formulating these policies, there are concerns regarding the extent, to which employers must allow their workers to observe their religious practices and expressions, especially during working hours as well as the resources they need to provide to facilitate such practices (Ghumman 440). Moreover, employers must ensure that their organizational policies, procedures, and practices provide all potential and current employees with protection from prejudice and harassment on their religious basis. This protection involves such aspects as ensuring that their job description does not contradict their religious and ethical as well as moral beliefs. Human resource managers and departments have a responsibility of establishing and promoting policies and practices that comply with the legal requirements of protecting workers from religious discrimination (SHRM). Furthermore, they must educate managers, supervisors, and other employees on the best practices to avoid discrimination as well as seek to establish a culture of non-discrimination in their workplace. Enforcing such mechanisms will ensure improved morale of employees and lead to reduced instances of legal actions.

Employee Commitment

Employee commitment is another issue that comes with religious discrimination is the workplace setting. Today, many potential employees inquire about the policies of organizations they wish to be employed in. In many instances, when negotiating for terms of employment, they also seek to establish terms that favor their religious practices. Even though some HR managers fail to recognize the importance of this, respecting the religious beliefs of their employees builds on their commitment to the organization (Messarra 62). Employees, who are committed to an organization, have a sense of belonging that stems from their psychological bond with the organization. The creation of an environment that allows employees to practice their religion increases their ability to identify with the organization. In turn, this creates commitment not only to one’s work but also increases their loyalty to their company. This devotion includes one’s emotional attachment and identification as well as involvement with their organization. At the same time, it extends to the dedication associated with an employee’s recognition of the consequences of leaving such a corporation (Messarra 63). Such a level of fidelity helps in enforcing employee retention and enables the employer to attract the right talent for the available positions. When employees develop a level of commitment as the result of the company’s effort to eliminate religious prejudice, such actions create a feeling of emotional responsibility from employees, which prompts them to continue working in the company (Messarra 63). Fair treatment and positive leadership styles lead to enhanced employee commitment, and as such, employers should focus on non-discriminatory policies and practices.

Employee Engagement

Employees have different expectations from those of their predecessors. Today, workplace settings place emphasis on the freedom of choice not only of goods and services for their consumers but also the freedom for employees to choose their value system and belief system (Webley 7). To this extent, employee engagement becomes a crucial aspect in the issue of religious discrimination in the workplace. This engagement involves a motivational process, in which the employees feel a positive and fulfilling association with the company, which improves their motivation (Messarra 63). Employee engagement involves activities such as involving employees in the policy and decision-making process, particularly on those aspects that touch their lives, specifically religion. For example, when creating the dress code for the company, employees’ opinion is considered. Additionally, establishing effective communication channels enable workers to communicate with their superiors and colleagues. The importance of employee engagement in religious diversity is undeniable as it also helps employees develop a sense of belonging. Perceived positive working environment creates enhanced involvement, collaboration, and commitment to one’s place of employment, which leads to improved productivity. At the same time, high level of religious discrimination is directly linked to decreased job satisfaction and high turnout in organizations (Messarra 63). Therefore, employee engagement in the workplace is important in identifying and implementing policies that, if ignored, could amount to religious discrimination.


With the increase in workforce diversity, the issues of religious discrimination raise more concerns than in the past. Some particular issues include religious accommodation that requires employers to guarantee that their employees can practice their faith-related rituals. Additionally, organizational policies and practices raise a notable issue. Employers must ensure that company policies and procedures promote an environment of non-discrimination. Treating people differently based on their religious affiliation negatively influences their work satisfaction and reduces the possible benefits of working in an organization since one’s working conditions affect their commitment and productivity. Creating a positive working environment also requires the employers to engage their workers in the decision-making process since this builds a sense of belonging and affects the workers’ motivation and job satisfaction.

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