Summary. In the United States, many companies’ holiday schedules were built during an era when most workers were Christians. Today one-third of Americans do not identify as Christian, and that percentage has been increasing. When giving employees time off for religious…more
Accommodating a religiously diverse workplace is not just a nice to have practice; it’s increasingly becoming a must have for business and company leaders. For 15 years, I’ve worked for Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a nonprofit in Chicago that is dedicated to advancing interfaith cooperation in the United States. The number one question I get from peers in business and nonprofit spaces is not about the latest hot topic related to religious identity — it’s usually some version of this: “As an interfaith organization, how do you handle religious holidays for your employees?”
It’s not surprising that this question is coming up more and more. Religious diversity in corporate America is a fact. Although nearly two-thirds of Americans identify themselves as Christian, that number is down 12% over the last decade, according to Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life, and the number of people in America who identify as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu is increasing, as is the number of people who identify as having no religious affiliation. For decades, many companies’ holiday calendars have been oriented around the major Christian holidays. As people who practice other religions become a large portion of the talent base, these shifts require that HR and internal DEI efforts update the way they handle policies for religious holidays — so that people can have time off to celebrate whichever religious holidays are meaningful to them, their families, and their communities.
Welcoming employees’ religious diversity can even be a competitive advantage. The Society of Human Resources points to studies that show that when employers are attentive to recognizing and accommodating their employees’ religious traditions, levels of employee engagement and retention increase. More and more companies and corporations are reaching out to IFYC, asking us to advise on religious accommodation issues and interfaith engagement for their employee and client base.
What can companies do to accommodate employees who need time off for religious observance?