Prayer breaks, headscarves, and time off – the rise of religious tension in the workplace
ISLAMIC employees no longer hesitate to ask their bosses if they can sneak out for a ‘prayer break’ during work hours, it was claimed today.
By ROMINA McGUINNESS
PUBLISHED: 14:43, Fri, Sep 23, 2016
Tension in the workplace is on the rise as religious divides become apparent.
According to an opinion poll carried out by the Randstad Institute and the Observatory for Religion in Companies (OFRE), two-thirds of French employers – 65 per cent – have noticed an ‘alarming’ rise in religious ‘demands’ at work.
The study concluded that religion has “imposed” itself in the workplace, and that having pious colleagues has become the norm.
Only 50 per cent of employers reported this trend in 2015, and only 44 per cent in 2014.
Some employees reported their coworkers tried to convert them to their religion.
Although people of all faiths were interviewed, the study shows that most demands are being made by Muslims. The poll also showed that ostentatious displays of religion at work are no longer considered “taboo”.
It’s not just a question of bad attitude, these people are challenging the laws of the Republic
More than 90 per cent of the time, it concerns employees asking to wear the headscarf or the kippah to work, workers wanting to use their breaks to pray rather than smoke, shop, or eat, or people claiming time off in lieu to celebrate Sabbath or the Muslim festival of Eid.
Lionel Honoré, director of OFRE, said that even though religion rarely affected an employee’s performance at work, religious demands were the root cause of many tensions.
The poll shows that 48 per cent of French managers had been forced to make allowances for the religious faith of their workers, and that 14 per cent of the time, the religious demand led to tension and conflict: a rise of two per cent since 2015.
It also shows that most of the time, clashes are sparked by religious employees refusing to work alongside a female colleague, or asking to work with people who share their faith, and no one else.
A number of employers also reported that some religious workers had tried to “convert” their colleagues.
“Employers know how to differentiate between a radicalised employee and a pious one,” said Mr Honoré. But they need to make sure they do not let religion take over, and allow workers to impose their own religious ‘laws’ at work, he warned.
According to Mr Honoré, Muslim employees are even blackmailing their bosses and threatening to accuse them of Islamophobia if their religious demands are not met, and if they are not given appropriate times and places for prayer.
“This has to be taken very seriously. It’s not just a question of bad attitude, these people are challenging the laws of the Republic,” he said.
The survey also showed that 80 per cent of French employees know their colleagues’ religion and that 82 per cent “didn’t mind” their religious colleagues.
The general malaise triggered by ostentatious displays of religion at work however, is on the rise: 18 per cent said religious displays at work made them feel “uncomfortable”, compared to just eight per cent in 2015.