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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Claims That Christmas Has Been Banned by Employers are Exaggerated and Misleading

The National Secular Society has dismissed the reports of employers “banning Christmas” as exaggerated and misleading. Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, commented: “Where Christmas parties and decorations are being discontinued it is usually for cost or health and safety reasons. We do not consider the move to be ‘Christophobic’ as Christians are increasingly prone to claim.

“The results of the survey need to be interpreted with caution. The wording in some of the questions are leading. One asks: ‘Do you believe that Christmas decorations make the workplace look unprofessional? Another may lead employers into thinking that legal requirements on faith celebration are much more draconian than is the case. It asks: ‘Are you aware of your legal requirements to celebrate all faiths?’ No law requires employers to allow employees to celebrate any faith in the workplace. ACAS guidance on the Employment Regulations says on religious observance in the workplace: “4.1 The Regulations do not say that employers must provide time and facilities for religious or belief observance in the workplace.”

“Such surveys, especially those conducted by legal services organisations, are likely to induce the very over-reaction to cultural sensitivities which they appear to decry.

“The winter solstice has been the time of celebration, goodwill and giving since pre-history and was also adopted by Christianity. We hope employers are not scared off from celebrating at this time of the year by exaggerated fears of cultural sensitivity.

“Perhaps the real message from this survey is that the more we bring religion into the workplace, the more disharmony there is. It would be far better if the workplace was regarded as an entirely secular place, leaving religious observance to the home or place of worship

“We also recognise that Britain is becoming a more litigious society and employers’ concern is growing about what appear to be increasingly disorderly parties where accusations of harassment, assault and even rape are becoming almost commonplace. The legal and financial costs to companies of incidents can be substantial, quite apart from damage to employee relations and even adverse publicity.”


Published Tue, 05 Dec 2006