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Getting Started

Key steps to success in working on religion and belief:

1. Create a workforce profile
Consider religion and belief alongside other diversity issues. Use the data you already have or obtained from a staff survey to measure your workforce looking at differences across the organisation. Establish the risks and opportunities this creates e.g. applications for leave around religious festivals etc. Sometimes getting reliable data takes a long time as it involves people declaring their religion so, perhaps take a cross-section of people and sample an indicative workforce profile. Recognise any data you collect on this subject is extremely sensitive.

2. Establish your boundaries
Beyond complying with the regulations, consider how far your organisation would like to go to support your employees in practicing their religion or belief e.g. provision of quiet rooms, celebration of religious festivals, creation of employee networks etc. Be aware that there may be a difference between 'Head Office' where facilities may be more easily provided and branches/stores, where they may not.

3. Audit your policies
Ensure that your employment, training, communications and other policies comply with the regulations on religion and belief and don't disadvantage particular religious groups or those without belief. Especially consider how your existing dress code might disadvantage certain religious groups and what your next steps could be. Also think about the provision of restaurant facilities and working with certain goods such as leather/alcohol. Include religion and belief within your Equal Opportunity statement / policy if appropriate.

4. Enforce a culture of respect
This is absolutely critical. Make sure expected standards of behaviour are communicated and enforced to prevent difficulties and potential conflict. Make awareness training available to all employees.

5. When asked to make an adjustment, don't be afraid to say 'yes' or 'no'
Saying ‘yes' is often easier than you think, and may require only minor adjustments. However not all requests will be reasonable or practical. Take soundings from your workforce and the wider community but focus on the aims and objectives of your organisation and have the confidence to say ‘no' when necessary.

6. Always look twice at a ‘problem'
When a complaint is received, always investigate thoroughly. People often cite religious reasons when a problem may be due to more general working conditions, or other frustrations.

7. Raise awareness with all stakeholders
Help employees, customers, suppliers and the wider community recognise the organisation's commitment to supporting those with a religion, belief or without belief. Include examples of where and how to communicate. Also consider profiling different religious holidays, customs etc. to raise awareness, finding role models who can champion their particular belief system. Ensure everyone understands the value of diversity.

8. Measure the impact
Create measurable performance indicators and develop accountability via for example attitude surveys. Establish benefit to bottom line, where possible, to help deliver success, a good example of this is where an understanding of your diverse customer base can lead to identifying new markets.

The Regulations introduced in 2003 mean that employers should take legal advice before embarking on policy/practice changes.