Equality and Diversity at Christmas

Published on: Fri 9 December 2016 by Admin

Christmas has become more than just a religious holiday in December. It’s a time when families come together to celebrate, well, family!

It’s also a difficult time for some HR departments, as they have to make important decisions based on their workforce. Do they need to send around an email asking staff not to wish colleagues a Merry Christmas in fear of offending a Muslim or Jewish colleague, or canceling the Christmas party because lots of people don’t drink for various reasons?

Understanding Equality and Diversity at Christmas means finding a balance for all members of staff. This means asking your staff if they have any special requirements, as well as what their comfort levels are.

It’s more than just religion

When you’re thinking about Equality and Diversity, you have to realise it’s more than just religion. While during the Christmas period there is a much heavier focus on the religion aspect of Equality and Diversity, it doesn’t mean you can forget about the other forms as well.

Some colleagues may not feel comfortable with open displays of Christmas decorations or displays of Christmas affection (A Merry Christmas or Christmas music playing for example) as it may remind them of a family member passing away at that time, or someone may abstain from coming to the Christmas party because they might be a recovering alcoholic.

We’re not saying that you need to cancel all your Christmas plans for the workforce (a Christmas party is a great morale booster), but you need to communicate with your staff and find out what they are comfortable with.

Pick dates wisely

This point is more Christmas Party focused, but always think about the date very carefully when planning a big communal event like this. Think about what other engagements they may have. Fridays would be very important to Jewish employees as it’s the Sabbath, so they wouldn’t be able to come.

What about employees with children? They’ll want to let their hair down just as much as other staff, but booking a sitter might be difficult on certain days.

Gauge the kind of staff that you have within your organisation and adjust the dates accordingly – everyone will want to come to the Christmas shindig!

Christmas cards

David Isaac, Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently spoke about this very topic in The Sunday Times, saying that “It’s ok to hold a party and to send Christmas cards. Most Muslims and Jews I know adhere to their own religious beliefs, of course, but to some extent acknowledge that Christmas happens and to some extent, with a small ‘c’, celebrate it. This is people’s lived experience and we need to reflect it.”

So you should be alright sending out Christmas cards to your colleagues, but don’t do it expecting one back. Not everyone sends cards for various reasons, so send them out to be nice and be happy if they respond, not bitter that they didn’t.

If you want to read more on this topic, we’ve written previously asking if office Christmas cards are politically correct?

We wish you a Merry Christ- – –

You don’t have to hesitate when wishing a colleague a Merry Christmas! While some people may feel uncomfortable with this for religious reasons, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable wishing a colleague to be happy over the Christmas holidays.

Unless someone has explicating said “Do not wish me a Merry Christmas”, you shouldn’t have to worry.

Policies, policies, policies

It’s always the first thing that comes to mind when you think of HR. If you’re unsure if your office has a Christmas policy, ask the HR staff. If in doubt, ask your manager!

This policy would usually outline if any restrictions on public displays of Christmas have been banned in the office, or if certain things need to be approved before going ahead.


How do you feel about Equality and Diversity at Christmas in your workplace? Let us know in the comments below!