Diversity Council Australia is  urging employers to leave 'Christmas”'out of end-of-year celebrations.
Diversity Council Australia is urging employers to leave 'Christmas”'out of end-of-year celebrations.

Bosses being urged not to mention ‘Christmas’

Workplaces are being urged to introduce "inclusive floating ­cultural holidays", send "holiday greetings" and hold "end-of-year holiday season" events to ensure non-Christians are not discriminated against at Christmas time.

The suggestions have been made by Diversity Council Australia, which advises 500 major Australian organisations employing more than a million workers.

In new guidelines for its members, it encourages employers to hold events that celebrate not just Christmas, but the Buddhist Bodhi Day, the Hindu Diwali, Jewish ­Hanukkah and Islamic Ramadan.

It states organisations should be "sure your end-of-year holiday party is inclusive of both Christian traditions and others".

And under its inclusive initiative, employees would be able to work on religious holidays such as Christmas Day, taking off other days which are more relevant to them.

The Creating Inclusive Multi-Faith Workplaces guidelines also suggest bosses offer a combined Christmas-New Year party so "everyone is on board with the ­company's vision for the new year".

Diversity Council Australia chief executive officer Lisa ­Annese said the guidelines had been adopted by 1 in 10 of its members.

"If you're having a Christmas celebration, try to make sure it's inclusive of other faiths as well because the office is for everybody," she said.

"We want to give people an idea of how to do it well."

Other ideas in the guidelines include:

DEVELOPING a multi-faith, multi-cultural calendar of ­religious festivals and events;

KEEPING a list of workers' dietary needs and provide vegetarian, halal, kosher and other options on request;

SERVING non-alcoholic drinks or holding an event at an alcohol-free venue;

PLANNING events and meetings around all major faith-based days.

The guidelines note that more people "identify with a faith other than Christianity than ever before".

They state that "while there is nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas, it's worth noting that many Australians do not celebrate Christmas ­religiously, either as followers of non-Christian religions, or as individuals with no religious affiliation".

The 2016 census revealed 52 per cent of Australians are Christians, and 61 per cent say they are religious.

The guidelines also include a list of "bias danger signs" that include workers being stopped from having certain hairstyles, not having time off to pray or meditate, and being ridiculed for their religious beliefs.

 

The 2016 census revealed 52 per cent of Australians are Christians.
The 2016 census revealed 52 per cent of Australians are Christians.

They state that religion must be balanced with other human rights, and all employees need to be respected.

This includes Muslim workers who don't want to shake hands with members of the ­opposite sex, and religious ­believers who think "same-sex attracted people are destined for hell".

It notes, however, that the expression of such religious beliefs can be harmful in a workplace context.

The Diversity Council Australia is an independent, not-for-profit adviser to some of the country's biggest employers including the Commonwealth Bank, the ANZ, BHP, AMP, the City of Melbourne, the AFL and the Melbourne Cricket Club.

An AFL spokesman said it had a diverse workforce with people from many cultural and religious backgrounds, and "we support and respect the right of all employees to celebrate the key religious or cultural events that are important to them".

Melbourne Cricket Club spokeswoman Sophie Henderson said: "We are developing a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan which will be announced in 2020, and will include the openings of a new multi-faith prayer room and sensory room at the MCG."

Daniel John, a spokesman for the Commonwealth Bank, said: "As a major employer with a large and culturally diverse workforce, we proudly encourage our staff to celebrate those holidays which are important to them."

susan.obrien@news.com.au