Holidays at the Office: Remember That Not Everyone Celebrates…
When you think about work holidays, you might imagine Christmas parties or free vacation days; but the reality is, not everyone actively celebrates the holidays. While anyone can get behind taking a paid day off, they might not be as happy if holiday decorations and celebrations are happening at the office. It’s important to remember that not everyone celebrates Easter, Christmas, Halloween, etcetera—forgetting this could cause some employees to feel offended and uncomfortable.
More than that, it could even make a few feel neglected, particularly those who might be trying to observe other religious holidays that haven’t been deemed “official” work (or national) holidays.
A note on accommodating religious observances
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, companies with 15 or more employees are required to make ‘reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious observances, if they are able to do so. A large part of that includes creating an inclusive company culture where others, regardless of their religion or beliefs, do not feel alienated or discriminated against—and observing holidays through traditional décor (without giving employees the chance to ‘opt out’) can definitely cause some individuals to feel uncomfortable. However, don’t hesitate to all multiple decorations – like a Christmas Tree and a Menorah. Or remembering to have a non-meat and Kosher options in vending machines or cafeterias.
Mindfulness of this matter is crucial for businesses if they want to avoid any legal trouble.
Practice without preaching: handling the holidays with tact
It’s all well and good to give employees off for certain holidays, and even to celebrate—to a point—within the office, but as an employer, you should strive to be inclusive without making such celebrations mandatory. Sometimes all it takes is to tone down the holiday décor and be aware of your employees’ beliefs before sticking a chocolate Easter bunny on everyone’s desk.
Your average employee probably won’t get upset if you wish them a merry Christmas or happy Easter, but if you force the holiday on them through a holiday event they’re asked to participate in, that’s when you risk offending people. Having to remind someone that they don’t adhere to the same holidays you do can get tiring, and could give the impression that you’re thoughtless.
Religious holidays should be approached with sensitivity, and speaking with your co-workers and employees is the simplest way to understand their expectations and perspective on the matter of holidays and observances.
Be clear about time off and “official” office holidays
Don’t hesitate to poll everyone on what religious holidays they may like to have off, or what days they may need to take off. Also, make sure you’re explicit about which holidays the office will be closed for and how employees can go about requesting time off for religious observances that don’t correspond with “official office holidays.”
Companies would do well to remember that their workforce is made up of diverse individuals, each with their own lives and beliefs; and if you want them to be happy, it’s wise to respect those differences and make accommodations when you can. This not only demonstrates flexibility but that you care about the things that matter most to them, creating a culture wherein employees feel valued and acknowledged.
HR Resolutions can help you sort through any complicated matters involving holidays and religious observances—just give us a call!