In South Africa, we pride ourselves on diversity, whether it be on race, language or ethnicity.
But don't forget that religion is also a part of that diversity. And trying to promote an atmosphere which, whilst suiting your own beliefs, threatens and offends the beliefs of another, goes against tolerance in the workplace, which can in turn remove any sense of equality, co-operation and teamwork.
That's right! As noted on workinfo.com, 'establishing' one's religion in the workplace can lead to complications.
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An employee, namely Michael, is a follower of the Islamic faith. He is required to attend weekly meetings with the rest of his team.
The team waits until everyone is together before beginning the day with a session of intense prayer, in line with the Christian Faith
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As far as Michael's aware, the rest of the team are followers of this particular faith, and he himself feels somewhat isolated, embarrassed, and downright humiliated.
What does the law say?
In South Africa, there is no law which expressly prohibits the 'establishment' of any particular religion, but that doesn't stop questions coming forward of whether doing so violates other constitutional and employment laws.
In other words, could not holding such meetings, which Michael has to attend yet doesn't want to because of the prayer sessions, constitute a form of harassment
in the workplace? Because he's being subjected to something in the workplace which he feels extremely uncomfortable with.
So what should you do?
As things currently stand, it looks like you as an employer must determine these things as you see fit.
But remember the importance of promoting an atmosphere in the workplace that upholds diversity, respect and no open discrimination based on religion.
Also, it's your responsibility to ensure that all your employees work in an environment where they feel safe and free from any possible form of unnecessary harassment.
Learn to accommodate diversity in the workplace as best as is reasonably possible.
If you wish to hold prayer sessions for employees, rather hold them before the workday starts, in one of the conference rooms, instead of holding them during an actual meeting.
What this does is it gives those who want to attend the opportunity to do so, while those who do not want to have a choice as well.
In meeting rooms, employees can have all sorts of differences which extend way beyond their employment in your company.
And so sticking to business is what counts. Anything other than that should be kept outside the meeting room.
Don't let the new Employment Equity amendments be the reason the DoL comes after you
There are still many employers who don't know exactly what the new 26 amendments are or even how to apply them.
If you employ more than 50 people or if your turnover is over the Employment Equity Act
threshold for your industry, you need to comply with each and every one of them.
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