With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to start decorating the office and planning the company holiday party. As today’s workforce becomes increasingly diverse, it is important for organizations to ensure inclusivity while maintaining the importance of religious holidays to those who celebrate them.
While Christmas decorations, music, movies and parties often dominate December, additional holidays such as Eid al-Fitr, Ramadan's festival of gift-giving (Muslims), Hanukkah (Jewish), Kwanzaa (African-Americans) and Pancha Ganapati (Hindu) may also be celebrated in December, depending on the lunar calendar.
It’s worth noting that in Canada, there is no law restricting the celebration of any holiday, religious or otherwise, in the workplace. However, companies who make no effort to be inclusive with their holiday celebrations risk alienating and offending their employees.
Here, Jabeen Boga, CHRP and HR instructor at Ashton College shares her tips for creating an inclusive holiday environment in a multicultural workplace:
1. Be inclusive
. Many cultures enjoy and celebrate Christmas in Canada, even if it’s not part of their personal or cultural tradition. Invite coworkers to celebrate the “holidays” with a focus on shared values such as joy, hope, peace, giving, and the importance of family & friends.
2. Be respectful
. The holidays are steeped in religion and it can be easy to unintentionally offend co-workers and employees. Be cognizant of what decorations your company hangs and respectful of the fact that not everyone celebrates the same way. Religious decorations can still be a part of a multicultural environment, so long as all religions are represented. Jabeen suggests celebrating the cultural differences of employees with a diversity potluck. “Celebrate different cultures and unite employees through food and celebration of different backgrounds. Create a signup sheet where everyone can share where their dish is from and the ingredients or recipe.”
3. Be flexible
. Different employees will have different needs regarding holiday celebrations. Employers of choice often offer floating religious holidays or flex-time that employees can use on days that are not part of the company’s official holiday schedule.
4. Be mindful
. Don’t let the holiday party devolve a thinly disguised Christmas Party. Offer non-alcoholic beverages for guests who do not drink, and vegetarian and vegan food options. When planning parties or celebrations refer to them as “holiday” celebrations rather than referencing a particular cultural or religious group. Be cautious with this in all communication whether it be email, posters, or banners.