Islamophobia in the workplace: recommendations for employers

Islamophobia in the workplace: recommendations for employers

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A new report by the Muslim Council of Britain has provided a detailed analysis of Islamophobia, how it is defined and how it can be identified, and therefore how it can be tackled across various aspects of British society. Of importance to employers is the report’s section on Islamophobia in the workplace and its suggestions for building a more wholly inclusive working environment for Muslim employees.

The report identifies that Muslim men are up to 76% less likely to have a job compared with white male British Christians of the same age and with the same qualifications. The report found that a job seeker with an English name is likely to be offered three times more interviews than someone with a Muslim name.

The report recommends that existing HR protocols should be adapted to help address Islamophobia in the workplace. To achieve this, it suggests that employers should do the following:

  • Ensure that employee relations protocols are revised to include specific references to Islamophobia and consult an employee relations specialist and Muslim-led organisations when doing so;
  • Ensure an HR or employee relations member of staff has undergone faith and race based trainings;
  • Revise ethnic diversity and inclusion protocols and strategies to be conducive to a faith-friendly organisation culture;
  • Make unconscious and conscious bias training compulsory for leadership staff and line managers involved in recruitment and career progression; and
  • Foster a culture of dialogue in the workplace that encourages open conversations between leadership staff and employees and encourages employees from minority communities to actively be involved in that culture.

More specific to creating a culture that is considerate of Muslim employees, the report suggests that employers should do more than what is legally required of them and strive to be more wholly inclusive of Muslim employees. The report recommends that employers:

  • Offer a range of social activities to increase the chances of accommodating, and appealing to, all employees from different backgrounds - a Muslim employee may not want to socialise in a pub;
  • Be aware of cultural differences, particularly in relation to handshaking and eye contact – the placing of a hand on heart (instead of handshaking) is a respectful greeting practiced in many Muslim communities, whilst Muslim men may lower their gaze when interacting with women as a sign of respect;
  • Take dress codes into considerations and, where uniforms are required, consider how headscarves can be incorporated for women, or provide hair nets and masks if there are health and safety concerns over men’s beards;
  • Consider the possibility of a flexitime system to allow Muslim employees to attend prayers – for example, allowing an earlier start on a Friday to allow employees to attend Friday prayers;
  • Discuss Ramadan with Muslim employees ahead of time to understand their routines and explore simple adaptations that can be made – for example, allowing Muslim employees to finish work earlier if they work through break times;
  • Consider serving halal food and vegetarian dishes in workplace canteens or at social events;
  • Consider how Muslim employees can be guaranteed to use two days’ annual leave to celebrate Eid festivals, or otherwise introduce a general policy allowing religious employees to take a ‘faith day’; and
  • Explore annual leave options for Muslim employees who may wish to travel on pilgrimages.

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