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Want to implement a religious leave policy? Consider these four things first

by , 17 October 2013
More and more employers are being asked to grant paid religious leave to employees who wish to observe Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim holy days. As a result, some employers are implementing religious leave policies in their companies. If you're one of these employers, be sure to consider these four things before you implement your religious leave policy.

Almost 80% of South Africa's population follows the Christian faith. Other major religious groups are the Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, says info.gov.za.

If you're an employer, chances are some of your employees will ask you for time off to observe their religious holidays.

According to the Practical Guide to Human Resource Management some companies allow their employees to take paid religious leave each year and have an official religious leave policy.

If you want to do the same in your workplace, consider the following four points first.

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Four things to consider before deciding on a religious leave policy in your workplace

#1: The culture of your company

This is normally determined by your senior management team in your company. If the company is owned by people with a specific religious belief (e.g. Judaism), they'll follow the customs of their faith and will close the company at specific times or on certain days.

#2: The operational requirements of your company

Business is all about being able to provide a good service to your customers. So before you decide on an appropriate policy for religious holidays, look at how your company's services will be affected if employees of different religions take leave at various times.

#3: Consider the cost

Every year, you're legally required to give your employees:

  • 15 working days leave (18 for those people who work a six day week),
  • Three days family responsibility leave (if they need it)
  • 13 public holidays,
  • 10 days sick leave (increasing to 30 days should an employee be seriously ill).

These are all paid holidays. You might also grant your employees study leave. These are all non-productive days that can cost you more than two months' salary.

'If you allow employees to take paid religious leave, your company is increasing the cost of employment for non-productive work. You'll need to decide if this is affordable,' says the Guide.

#4: Consider if your policy is fair

If you allow, for instance, your Muslim employees to take their religious holidays, have you thought about other less recognised religions and staff members who aren't religious?

If you decide to allow leave for religious holidays, you need to consider the fairness of not extending these additional paid days or time off to the rest of your staff.

Implementing a religious leave policy isn't that straight forward. So be sure to take all these points into account.

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