to address harassment, bullying and discrimination
with Stephen Hammond
Tip #47 — ACCOMMODATE FOR CHANGING RELIGIONS
One of the major accommodation grounds within human rights is religion. Since we are a country with many traditions based on the majority-observed Christian religion, sometimes it's hard to see that non-Christians merely want the same kinds of accommodations that Christians have taken for granted for years.
While most Canadians still identify themselves as Christian, either Roman Catholic or Protestant, according to census data for decades, Christianity has declined as an overall percentage, with the largest increase involving Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. Of those, Muslims by far, are the fastest growing religious group in Canada.
With ever more immigrants arriving from Asia and South Asian in particular, these religions will continue to grow. Since their members are younger than those in the traditional Catholic and Protestant population, they will have a strong influence on the workplace, especially in geographical pockets where they take up residence.
And when we think about making religious accommodations, we often don't think about those with no religious affiliation.
Yet, according to the last major census in 2011, 25% of Canadians said they had "no religious affiliation." British Columbia is the province with the most people saying this (44%) and Alberta is next with almost one-third of its population. So we now have pressures for accommodation from people with non-Christian religions, but also pressures from employees who say they don't want any reference to religion at work. It involves balancing a certain amount of sensitivities.
1) Be prepared for religious holidays - as more employees become comfortable with asserting their rights at work, you'll want to anticipate some requests. If an employee gives you lots of notice for taking a religious day off, you can prepare for it. Any court or tribunal will ask "what will you do if a person calls in sick?" because they know you'll have a plan of action in place. If you can do that with no notice, then you can certainly do it with lots of notice. The sooner you know, the easier it will be to accommodate religious days off.
2) Avoid making employees educators - many people want to know more about the religions of fellow employees. If employees want to tell others, that's fine, but if they don't feel like holding a class (so to speak) then we need to respect that. Lots of times fellow employees ask questions, but they don't want to hear the answers - they just want to judge. People will be as open as they want to be.
3) Get ready for no-religions - as people will start asserting their rights to leave religion out of the workplace. Religion isn't a big issue in most Canadian workplaces, when something comes up, be considerate and look at all the issues. DON'T BE THE NEXT HIGH-PROFILE CASE!