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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/faith-and-belief-toolkit/the-civil-service-faith-and-belief-toolkit
1. What is this faith and belief toolkit, and how do I use it?
The Civil Service is committed to being the most inclusive employer in the UK, and to working in a way that makes everyone feel they can participate fully in our workplaces - no matter what their background.
This toolkit looks specifically at inclusion from the perspective of faith and belief, with information on how to support specific religious practices and wider tips on how to make sure everyone in your team can feel included.
It’s intended as a guide for line managers throughout the Civil Service, although we hope it will be a helpful resource for anyone working as part of an inclusive team. We know that faith groups are not homogenous groups, and therefore this guide is a starting point for conversations.
The toolkit is currently aimed at UK teams, but over time our aim is to add additional content about our teams based internationally. We also recognise that there are lots of different types of Civil Service teams in different locations, so we will keep posting good practice wherever it’s shared.
If you have any questions about the toolkit, or suggestions for additional content, please contact email@example.com.
2. Why does the Civil Service need a faith and belief toolkit?
Like many other big organisations, the diversity of our workplaces has changed quite a bit over the last ten years. 35% of the SCS were women in 2010, compared to 43% in 2018. 12% of Civil Servants now tell us they are from an ethnic minority, compared to 9.3% in 2010. And now that we capture more data on things like sexual orientation and socioeconomic background, we understand a lot more about the backgrounds our employees come from, and how that might affect their experience at work.
That diversity is helping us come up with new ways of serving citizens across the UK. The more we reflect the communities we serve, the better we can understand their needs and deliver services in a way that responds to those. But it can also mean we need to think more about how we can make everyone feel included in our workplaces.
For Civil Servants who practice a particular religion or have a particular set of beliefs, we know from our People Survey that inclusion is about being able to bring that part of themselves to work - to feel confident that they will be able to undertake the practices they need to, and to feel able to share as much as they need to about their faith without fear of discrimination.
The idea of this toolkit is therefore to capture in one place what to think through when building an inclusive team that includes people from a range of different religions and belief systems. It’s split into different sections:
- what we mean by faith and belief
- what does the data tell us about faith and belief in the Civil Service
- what are our strategic priorities for faith and belief in the Civil Service
- our Employee Networks, and how to get in touch
- faith and belief champions, and what their role is
- why this matters to you as a line manager
- where you can find out more about faith and belief in the workplace
3. What do we mean by faith and belief?
Religion or belief is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, and you can find out more here about what that means in terms of our commitment to tackling discrimination.
In the Civil Service, we took the decision to refer to faith and belief rather than religion and belief when we were developing our 2017 D&I Strategy. The feedback then from a range of employees and networks was that a broader definition would help - although we recognise that not everyone thinks the faith and belief label works.
Although we refer to faith and belief when talking about the full range of our programmes, we nevertheless use the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) definition of religion or belief, so that our work to build inclusion across the Civil Service includes:
- Support for any civil servant from any religion – including an organised religion like Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Buddhism, or a smaller religion like Rastafarianism or Paganism, as long as it has a clear structure and belief system.
- Support for civil servants who have particular philosophical beliefs. The definition of a belief for the EHRC is something that “is genuinely held and more than an opinion. It must be cogent, serious and apply to an important aspect of human life or behaviour”.
- Support for civil servants with no religion or belief - on the basis that protection against discrimination applies equally to people who are not of a particular religion, or a part of it.
What that means is that this toolkit is deliberately written in a way that does not prioritise one religion or belief system above others, and that seeks to provide support to Civil Servants for whom their religion is visible (because of dress or practice, for example) as well as those for whom it is not. It is also written in a way that should ensure that Civil Servants who have no religion or formal belief system can also feel fully included in the work of their teams.
One suggestion has been that this toolkit should include more information about the central tenets of major religions, and if that would be helpful, let us know. In the meantime, if you would like to find out more information about specific festivals you can find a great calendar.
4. What does the data tell us about faith and belief in the Civil Service?
We do ask people if they would like to share their religion or belief with us via HR systems, and that helps us look at whether the Civil Service as a whole is broadly representative of the UK’s working population and is attracting a range of people from different religious backgrounds (and none). Based on the 2018 data we have from those who have chosen to share their religious identity:
- 53.5% of responding Civil Servants were Christian and 35.7% reported they had no religion or belief
- the most common reported religion or belief after Christianity was Muslim at 3.5%
You can see the data on the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion dashboard.
Only 44% of Civil Servants have shared the data on their religious identity though, and that’s something we need to drive up further if we are going to be able to understand our teams and their inclusiveness more effectively. So if you haven’t already done so, please do report your faith and belief data on your local HR system - and encourage your teams to as well.
5. What are our strategic priorities for faith and belief in the Civil Service?
Each department or agency in the Civil Service has its own Diversity & Inclusion strategy, but there are some consistent themes across government that are championed by a group of Permanent Secretaries on behalf of all of their colleagues. The Permanent Secretary champion for faith and belief cross-government is Clare Moriarty (DExEU). Working with Clare, we have developed three strategic priorities for faith and belief across the Civil Service, which are to:
5.1 Amplify the dialogue about faith and belief in our workplaces.
Of all the diversity characteristics, faith and belief tends to be the one we talk about least. Many people feel a bit uncomfortable talking about their faith or belief - partly because it’s a private matter, partly because in doing so they might open themselves up to other people’s preconceptions, or have to justify their beliefs in some way. Equally, asking other people about their faith can also feel difficult – questions about faith can risk feeling intrusive, or patronising, or even ignorant.
But we need to recognise that for lots of civil servants, having a particular faith or belief is a large part of who they are. And although in the current context, discussing a particular faith or belief can feel difficult – and somehow loaded with the connection to global events - for many people, every day at both work and home, faith informs their values and how they operate.
So our first strategic priority is to support those conversations that can help us feel comfortable talking about faith and belief at work. Bringing people together to understand what makes each other tick, and through that to develop a shared sense of belonging.
5.2 Celebrate the shared values we have, whatever our faith or belief system
In addition to promoting dialogue through which we can learn more about different faiths, our work also prioritises events and dialogue that can help us celebrate the common values that lots of us share – no matter what our background, religion or belief system. For Interfaith Week last year, for example, we brought together nearly 200 Civil Servants from a variety of backgrounds and heard more about the similarities in lived experience, and how our workplaces could be made more inclusive to everyone. Across our strategies and plans for Diversity & Inclusion, we are also prioritising a greater understanding of intersectionality – what it means to be part of a number of groups or identify in a number of ways - and there are important links between faith and belief and other programmes of work that we will continue to join together.
5.3 Support difficult conversations about faith and belief when they are needed
There can be tensions between particular religious observances and the needs of others, or tensions between the needs of others and those of people from particular faith backgrounds. Equally, faith groups are not homogenous – within most faiths there are multiple sub-groups, and the differences in belief within faiths can feel as large as the differences between faiths.
Building on the foundations laid by increased dialogue, our aim is to identify and surface any tensions that require a clear policy response – and to ensure that those policies are transparent and widely available. The FAQs section of this Toolkit has captured some of the feedback we have received so far, but we will continue adding to it over time.
Faith and belief matters to the Civil Service. Our teams will make better policies if they reflect the communities we serve, and our people will work more effectively if they are able to connect their work with their core values. Our Civil Service faith and belief Champion has written a great blog about this which you can read.
6. Our Employee Networks, and how to get in touch
We are fortunate in the Civil Service to have thriving networks across government. To meet our aim of being the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020, we need to make sure that everyone feels that their voice is heard, and that they have a safe space in which they can air any concerns or worries. Our networks are a key part of that.
Employee networks are also not only a space for dialogue. From the centre, we often shape ideas and deliver them in partnership with our networks. The recent guidance around making sure that SCS interview panels have a diverse mix of people on them was developed with the cross-government Race and Disability networks, for example.
All of our networks are open to everyone, and all of our network events are for everyone, not just those who identify in a particular way. And we have a vast range of networks catering to all sorts of groups and interests. So, if you aren’t part of one, it might just be worth trying it out.
6.1 Civil Service interfaith and belief network group
Through engagement with our cross government networks we are able to get a better understanding of the lived experiences of people of different faiths and beliefs, as well as understanding any key workplace issues that are still presenting as barriers to inclusion. We therefore also use our cross-government networks as consultants on proposed changes to the Civil Service as an employer, and on wider people-related issues. Find out about members of the Civil Service interfaith and belief network group consists of the chairs of our cross-Whitehall faith and belief networks. It brings together the Civil Service Jewish network (JNet), the Civil Service Muslim Network, the Civil Service Hindu Connection, Humanists in Government, Home Office Sikh Association and Christians in Government.
Find out about members of the Civil Service interfaith and belief network group.
Christians in Government UK (CIG UK) is a non-denominational staff network connecting, supporting and representing Christians working in UK national government. They are passionate about supporting their members to serve ministers and the public, and to bring the blessing of God to the heart of government for the benefit of all.
The network has been running the Whitehall Carol and Easter Services and other events for civil servants since 1999, having taken over the role of supporting Christians in the civil service from the Civil Service Christian Union. Having formal recognition from the Cabinet Office to represent and serve civil servants, CIG UK is the umbrella organisation for all Christian networks in UK government departments.
6.3 Civil Service Hindu Connection
The Hindu Connection are a faith, inclusion and wellbeing staff support network. Their vision is for a truly inclusive and supportive workplace for Hindus and all staff. Their mission is two-fold: to represent, support and service the needs of Hindu staff and its members and to promote wellbeing and Hindu Dharma to enrich the lives of all staff. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6.4 Home Office Sikh Network
There isn’t yet a cross-government Sikh network, although a number of informal groups exist. In the meantime, if you have questions you may want to contact the Home Office Sikh Association, who act as a source of information regarding the Sikh religion and culture to the Home Office and its agencies, and take an active part in the following areas that may impact on Sikhs:
- Equality Impact Assessments
- policy matters/development
- management issues
- quality assurance of Home Office guidance and literature that provides information on Sikhs
- hold Sikhi awareness events across the Home Office to inform all colleagues about the Sikh faith
- improving relations and confidence between the Home Office and the Sikh community
- assist members with work related issues and concerns regarding their treatment as a direct result of their Sikh faith
They can be contacted at H.O.Sikh@homeoffice.gov.uk.
Humanists in Government is a forum within Humanists UK bringing together civil service personnel and other professionals working in government to network and share experiences with like-minded people.
Humanists in Government is open to all people in all departments or agencies currently working in the UK and devolved governments and the London Assembly, as well as political advisers and parliamentary staff.
The Civil Service Jewish Network (JNet) is a cross-government network of over 300 Jewish civil servants and other civil servants interested in Jewish culture. Their aims include promoting an awareness of and providing resources relating to Jewish religion and culture across the Civil Service and representing the views and concerns of Jewish civil servants as appropriate in wider discussions about diversity and inclusion in government.
Founded in 2007 the Civil Service Muslim Network (CSMN) has sought to bridge an understanding of Islam, encourage positive conversations around faith and belief in the workplace and foster a culture of belonging. CSMN focuses on sharing best practice on faith and inclusion, from Ramadan guidance to multi-faith room guidance, and encouraging dialogue outside of those with religious affiliations. CSMN also provides a platform for Muslim role models working in the Civil Service through outreach (in schools, colleges and universities) to encourage the next generation of Civil Servants. CSMN continues to promote the importance to senior leadership to prioritise faith and belief to ensure the civil service - at all grades - truly reflects all of the diverse communities we serve.
7. Faith and belief champions, and what their role is
Each department (and lots of government agencies) has a senior champion for faith and belief. They are the people responsible for ensuring that faith and belief is something that’s covered effectively in organisation’s plans. They also work collectively to deliver key faith and belief priorities for the Civil Service, overseen by Clare Moriarty as our Permanent Secretary champion.
- William Vineall - Department for Health and Social Care
- Nigel Baker - Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- Jenny Tse - HMPO & UKVI
- Frank Strang - Scottish Government
- David Lamberti - Home Office
- Kate Marks - Environment Agency
- Tricia Hayes - Department for Transport
- Hayley Rogers - Cabinet Office
- Louise Hellem - HMT
- Simon Gallagher - MHCLG
- Peter Benton - ONS
- Catherine Vaughan - DIT
- Gillian Baranski - Welsh Government
- Chris Hobley - DExEU
- Karina Singh - Land Registry
- Faith and Belief Champion - MI5
- Eileen Milner - Department for Education
- John Newton - Public Health England
- Lorna Fitzjohn - OFSTED
- Justin Holliday - HMRC
- Lt Gen Richard Nugee - Ministry of Defence
- Peter King - Government Legal Department
- Mike Driver - Ministry of Justice
- Jonathan Bochenski - VOA
- Ravi Chand - Department for International Development
- Samantha Peace - Health and Safety Executive
8. Why this matters to you as a line manager
Behaving inclusively isn’t just about understanding faith and belief, and lots of what you already do as a people manager and a leader within the Civil Service will directly benefit those people in your team for whom practicing a particular religion is important.
So before looking through the details in the FAQs section of this toolkit, it’s worth thinking through what the core components of building inclusive teams are that will help lay the foundation for greater dialogue about faith and belief and the specific needs within your team.
8.1 For example:
Get to know your team, build trust, and be open to challenge.
Take steps to understand the barriers that individuals or groups of people can face in participating fully and progressing. Seek out opportunities to mentor, coach, or sponsor staff and take up reverse mentoring to build a better understanding of other people’s perspectives.
Be visible and transparent in your commitment to building, embedding and normalising an inclusive culture within your organisation.
Create ambitious and transparent D&I objectives, and encourage a working culture where diversity of thought and working styles, as well as diversity of characteristics, is not only respected but expected.
Encourage a culture where people are respectful of others’ needs and feel it is safe to speak up about things that concern them.
This will only happen where people can genuinely see that when people do come forward they are listened to and treated respectfully. Be prepared to step in and help to resolve concerns and conflict - and where problems do arise, take steps to ensure that all parties feel supported and understand what is happening.
In essence, this boils down to understanding where members of your team are coming from, understanding their lived experience, and ensuring that they aren’t excluded from your team and from the work you do.
9. Where you can find out more about faith and belief in the workplace
You can also find out more information here about Inter Faith Week, a nationally recognised annual event that enables greater interaction between people of different faiths and backgrounds, celebrating diversity and encouraging cooperation and inter faith learning.
9.6 Departmental best practice
We are gathering a repository of departmental good practice, which we will share here. In the meantime, there is some Ministry of Defence guidance on faith and belief which you might find helpful.
Discrimination or harassment on the basis of religion or belief is absolutely not tolerated in the Civil Service, and any behaviours that make people feel they are being discriminated against must be challenged. You can find out more about the legal underpinning to that in this helpful ACAS guide.
There are a range of wider questions about how we can make our workplaces feel inclusive to everyone, no matter what their religion or belief. We have gathered some of them here, but if you have others, please contact email@example.com and we will keep adding to this Toolkit.
10.1 Ways of working
Creating an inclusive workplace for people of all religions (and none) – what sort of things should I do?
Faith or belief doesn’t necessarily stop at the door when an individual enters the workplace, it forms part of an individual’s belief system, their values, their greater state of wellbeing – and often their ethics and approach to work.
The simplest way to find out how individuals in your team feel about whether there are barriers to feeling included in work on the basis of their faith or belief is to talk to them sensitively about their experience. It’s OK to ask, and it’s OK not to know the answer – and if you feel you need more support, there is usually a network in your organisation who can help.
Things to think about include:
- How to visibly respond to and respect an individual’s religion or belief, setting an example for others. For example, acknowledging and planning for festivals and special days when you are talking about work as a team. Or just stopping to think about how the traditions you have in your team might need to be adjusted to make sure everyone can participate.
- How best to help your wider team understand where an individual is coming from - with their permission, you might encourage a conversation about the different practices they are undertaking, for example. Or perhaps your local faith and belief networks could come and host a session on customs and practices more broadly?
- Involving your wider team in a broader discussion about inclusion that provides a safe space for a conversation about faith and belief, but situates it in the wider context so that no-one feels singled out. How inclusive is your team feeling for everyone? Are there things you could change to make people feel a greater sense of belonging? Is everyone’s voice being heard when it comes to how the team operates?
Where can I find further information about different faiths and beliefs?
There are lots of resources available, but a good way to start would be to get in touch with one of your organisation’s networks or with one of our cross-Whitehall faith and belief networks. You can also find a great calendar of different religious festivals.
What should I think about when it comes to social gatherings or outings?
Quite often, people worry about whether it’s still OK to have a work Christmas party if someone in the team doesn’t celebrate Christmas - or whether it’s OK to suggest drinks after work. The answer is usually just to think things through based on the preferences of the individuals in your team, and try to offer a range of choices and activities over the year so that no-one feels excluded. Your aim should be to make sure that feeling part of the team doesn’t depend on people taking part in activities they’re not comfortable with.
So by all means still have a Christmas party, but perhaps think about the venue and bear in mind that not everyone consumes alcohol. Think through the times of day you bring your team together, and whether that will clash with any religious observances. Sometimes it’s helpful in bigger teams to bring a group or committee together to organise things - and if you make sure that’s made up of people from lots of different backgrounds, you usually find they can come up with new ideas for how to make everyone feel included.
A restructure of a team in a policy-led department offered the opportunity for a team building session that could bring together a diverse mix of people. The team decided not to meet after the session for drinks, as not everyone wanted to go to the pub and some people had childcare commitments to get home to. So they stopped at lunchtime instead, and asked everyone to bring along food and drink that represented them and their culture. The conversation about home-made samosas and Cornish pasties gave the team a safe way of talking about their backgrounds and families, and started to build a greater sense of understanding.
Should my team celebrate all religious festivals?
Not necessarily! But experience in other teams suggest that actually using other festivals as a good excuse to get together, share experiences and share stories is another way of making everyone in the team feel included – and that their experience counts and matters to others.
10.2 Practical issues
Do I need to provide a quiet room or multi faith room?
Yes – most if not all Civil Service hub locations should provide access to a room, and if they don’t, please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org. We know that not every building can have the right facilities for some ablutions and observances, but we are trying hard to rectify that wherever possible.
As good practice we would recommend that departments or agencies provide information about the location of their quiet/multi faith room in their induction pack, and provide the information on the facilities page of their intranet site. It’s also important to make sure that the room is protected for its intended use - when space is tight, multi faith rooms can end up being used for meetings or for storage, for example. If that’s happening in your building, the best plan is to escalate to your estates team, or to speak to your faith and belief champion if you have one.
What about providing food for meetings?
If you’re organising a meeting or event, and you’re providing food, you need to make sure you’re providing a range of options to cater for people who follow specific diets. The easiest thing to do is to first establish the requirements of the people coming (through a quick and easy email RSVP), and then speak to whoever is providing your food to see if they can offer halal, kosher, vegan and other specific options.
It’s quite common for caterers to be able to provide halal foods (typically vegetarian), but not to be able to provide kosher food. Check with your finance team which suppliers are on your framework. One potential supplier is Hermolis - they produce Kosher meals under the licensing authority of “Kedassia” which is the most stringent religious organisation in this country and accepted worldwide.
A large conference was being organised by a directorate. The team had budget to cater the conference and in order to ensure that staff who had food allergies or religious requirements could find things they were able to eat, they asked on the event invite if attendees had any specific dietary requirements. A request came in for a kosher meal to be provided. The team made touch with their departmental Jewish network to check the best provider to get the meal from ahead of time. By doing this they were able to efficiently cater for the individuals’ needs, and for all attendees equally.
What is the Civil Service policy for religious dress?
The Civil Service is aligned with wider legislation in this area. We do not prevent employees who choose to wear crosses, head coverings or other symbols of their religion unless it directly interferes with their ability to carry out their duties. Individual departments and agencies within the Civil Service are responsible for their own policies on dress codes to meet their differing business contexts, health and safety regulations and requirements.
What about security searches for those people who have specific religious dress?
All staff are required to show a valid pass when entering Civil Service buildings, and if you are having a meeting with external visitors they can expect to undergo some form of security check before entering the building. This may involve showing photo ID or going through a security scanner. Some visitors may feel uncomfortable with having a search carried out, especially if they observe customs or rules on religious dress – but security procedures must be followed, so please ensure your visitors are aware of them.
10.3 Annual leave and attendance
How should I respond to requests for time off on religious grounds?
There is no legal obligation to grant time off for religious reasons - but given we are committed to being an inclusive employer, our hope is that teams across the Civil Service will be able to use our wider annual leave and flexible working policies to be able to grant as many requests as possible.
Experience across a diverse range of teams, departments and agencies suggests that it’s very possible to meet the needs of people who need time off with simple managerial approval on a case by case basis. There are two considerations:
It’s important to be able to balance the needs of individuals against the needs of the business. Just as it’s good practice to work across the team to make sure that everyone’s holidays in the summer are timed to ensure that there remains a level of cover throughout, so we need to balance religious leave across the team where appropriate.
It’s important not to overly favour one particular group to the disadvantage of those with different or no religious beliefs. Being very clear in communications around everyone’s leave and attendance (through a shared tracker, for example) is often a helpful way of ensuring transparency.
Where can I find a list of religious holidays in the UK?
It is useful to have knowledge of the different religious holidays and festivals that people of different faith backgrounds may observe. A good list to refer to can be found on the Inter Faith network website. Note that some festivals depend on the lunar calendar and so can’t always be predicted in detail – but keeping open communication going can help plan for those.
Are there any specific considerations around bereavement for individuals from different backgrounds?
Mourning and funeral arrangements can differ between different religions and practices. Members of your team who have suffered a bereavement might need additional time off, or time off with immediate effect to observe specific customs. As with all compassionate leave, you should respond sensitively and sympathetically up front, and then make a judgement as to what is reasonable over time.
What about time off during the working day, for prayer time for example?
Some religions require prayer at specific times of day, for other individuals it’s important to have space for reflection more informally. Working inclusively means understanding what each individual in your team needs, and finding a way to support that. Even in teams that work on a shift pattern basis, you should help carve out time for individuals to undertake their religious observances wherever possible.
10.4 Navigating conflicts and concerns
Is it OK to shake peoples hands?
Different cultures and religions have different modesty values – some people might want to avoid eye or skin contact with the opposite sex, for example. Even if it initially feels awkward, it’s worth asking sensitively what people prefer – or you might want to hold back and let the individual in your team take the lead on what feels right to them. There’s a great blog on this topic here.
What if I’m worried that people in my team will try to convert others to their beliefs?
One of the concerns often expressed is that if people bring their religious affiliation to work, there’s a risk that they will seek to coerce others to change their beliefs - although, from the data we have, instances of this are very rare. For many people, their faith or belief plays a large role in their identity, so it’s only natural that it should come up in conversation. But we should be open about the fact that talking about faith and belief can make some people feel uncomfortable.
Sharing information about ourselves and our way of life does not always mean we are trying to persuade others to change their beliefs, or that we are judging one set of beliefs to be better than another. It is often about finding a shared understanding as members of the same workplace or team and ensuring that everyone can feel included on that basis.
Our priorities on Faith & Belief (which are set out in the blog from Clare Moriarty) clearly set out a commitment to open dialogue around Faith & Belief, undertaken sensitively, within reasonable bounds, and with consideration for the likely reaction of others.
What that means in practice is that if a staff member shares a particular belief with a colleague, or invites them to a talk or event, and the colleague makes it clear that they are not interested, then their wish should be respected.
Beliefs should not be raised in an inappropriate context (for example, it is likely to be more appropriate to discuss some issues over coffee rather than in a business meeting, and extra care should be taken around conversations within a hierarchical relationship). It may also be inappropriate to share beliefs in the workplace that are likely to be controversial, and extra caution should therefore be exercised.
Line managers should be aware that an employee who ‘forces’ their religion or belief on other staff, when they do not want to hear the views, may be harassing them. The workplace harassment policies provide protection for staff that feel that unwanted behaviour has gone too far, and staff should seek to use the existing channels within their Departments for raising concerns.
What guidance should be followed when looking to invite an external speaker into my organisation?
Inviting an external speaker into a department to discuss their faith or belief can be a great opportunity to share learning and enrich understanding – and in the vast majority of cases is a great way to promote dialogue. It can also be useful to get a panel together with people from a number of religions to discuss the similarities and differences in their experience.
When inviting a speaker you may wish to consider carrying out the following research before agreeing to host:
Seek to clarify what will and won’t be discussed – and consider whether this is appropriate specifically for a talk or event happening in the workplace.
Check that the individual has not used inflammatory language in public statements, nor could reasonably be seen to be promoting hatred towards different groups.
Think through any risks to your Department or organisation’s reputation if you invite a specific individual or organisation to speak. Not every individual or organisation that comes to speak needs to fully agree with all aspects of Government policy. But if you choose to engage with an organisation that doesn’t, you need to be clear on the risks and benefits of that.
If a staff member objects to a speaker then this should not automatically be taken as grounds to bar the speaker or organisation. The facts of the case should be investigated to see if the concerns raised are proportionate and well-founded.
If a decision is taken that a speaker or event is not suitable, there should be full transparency in the decision-making process and fair-handed treatment of all parties involved - and it’s also good practice to use that decision to set guidelines for how things will be arbitrated in the future.
What if someone in my team wants to do something that clashes with someone else’s needs?
Unfortunately, there’s often not a right or straightforward answer when trying to navigate through the different needs of your team. It’s a question of balance and judgement, but accommodating one set of needs should not come at the expense of others.
How should I respond if individuals from particular faith backgrounds in my team object to gender-neutral toilets?
Gender-neutral toilets are toilets and/or bathroom facilities which do not have gendered signage and which do not require the person using them to define into a gender. Rather than being unisex (both male and female), gender-neutral toilets assign no gender whatsoever to people using them.
You might find that some people in your team hold various beliefs about modesty, gender, and gender segregation and would therefore find gender neutral toilets unsuitable. The Civil Service policy is clear - in all buildings, both gender-segregated and gender-neutral toilets should be accessible to allow individuals a choice. Your estates team may be able to support you on this matter.
What if I’m asked something I don’t know if I should be supporting?
If you are line managing a member of staff with a particular faith or belief, understanding their experience and accommodating their particular needs shows good management and helps ensure people perform to the best of their abilities. However, if you are asked a question that you are unsure of the correct response for, do seek advice from your employee networks and local Diversity and Inclusion teams.