How to Foster a Diverse and Inclusive Holiday Season - Tilson


How to Foster a Diverse and Inclusive Holiday Season

Culture, Leadership & Management | November 2021

The winter holiday season is upon us yet again, arriving seemingly faster than the year before.

For employees, this can have many implications for inside of the workplace. As employers, it is imperative to be strategic with your holiday workplace happenings to ensure an inclusive and positive employee experience during the season.

To help your company navigate through an inclusive holiday season seamlessly, consider these three factors: office décor, celebrations, and time off.

01 Office Decor

There may be hesitation around allowing holiday decor within employees’ personal workspaces. However, creating a policy against seasonal or holiday décor can lead to religious-based discrimination claims.

It is okay for employees to decorate their own cubicle or office space for the winter season, including any of their own religious symbols.

However, employers should consider limiting holiday décor throughout the main areas of the office to secular seasonal displays. For example, snowflakes, garland, and snowmen are considered acceptable because they are not affiliated with any specific holiday. This will help keep the environment friendly for a diverse workforce.

02 Celebrations

The winter holidays tend to be when employers host a party to show appreciation to employees for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. Although a celebration may be planned with the best intentions in mind, some or all aspects of the party may be offensive to staff if crucial details are not considered. According to Eric Peterson, a senior consultant with Cook Ross Inc., “One way not to be inclusive is to make somebody feel invisible, to make them feel as though the organization just has no idea who they are, what is pleasing to them and what is offensive.” Because the workforce is diverse, extra thought and sensitivity should be taken when planning the year-end gathering.

A few helpful tips to make the event inclusive for all team members include:

  • Create a diverse planning committee
  • Avoid scheduling mishaps
    • Check an interfaith calendar to determine the best date for the party
  • Attendance should be voluntary
  • If food is being served, provide a variety of choices
  • Decorations should be chosen with care
    • Secular seasonal décor is best to demonstrate inclusion

03 Time Off

A great inclusive initiative is for employers to encourage time off for other religious holidays. Generally, employers offer paid days off for set holidays, but implementing a floating holiday would allow employees to celebrate a holiday that’s most important to them as an individual.

Floating holidays are a good way for employers to show that they value their employees’ beliefs. It is important that managers and supervisors respect an employee’s time off, when utilizing a floating holiday. They should not require the employee to take phone calls, answer text messages, or answer emails. A report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 30% of employers offer paid floating holidays outside of personal days or standard holiday time.

It is also significant to note that The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires employers with more than 15 employees to grant time off requests for religious observances unless it caused an undue hardship upon the business.

As the holiday season is quickly approaching, take the time to review how you can make the season enjoyable to your entire workforce. Doing so will help you to maintain compliance and help foster a diverse and inclusive work environment.

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