Holiday diversity

Friday, December 20, 2013 - 2:21pm

By Mary Jane Webber

For some people in Capital Health, Dec. 25 is a work day. That applies to hundreds of front-line medical staff who must be on the job to take care of patients, but it also applies for those who do not celebrate the Christian holiday.

Capital Health serves a population that encompasses more than 33 different religions and denominations, many of which are represented by staff. That’s why, in 2010, Capital Health introduced the “Religious Day in Lieu” clause to all collective agreements. It gives any staff member the option to work on any or all of the four religious statutory holidays in exchange for taking a day that is significant in their own culture.

The policy was negotiated with the unions that represent Capital Health staff and has been extended to non-unionized and management employees.

“Different staff members honour religious holidays other than Christian ones,” explains Mohamed Yaffa, Capital Health’s diversity co-ordinator. “Here, staff have the option to celebrate what is important to them, not what is named a statutory holiday.”

In Yaffa’s case, he will work Boxing Day in exchange for taking the day off to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan. Current collective agreements entitle staff to the following holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas and/or Boxing Day.

“A lot of staff don’t know this option exists, and it is a very simple process,” said Yaffa. “The staff member just has to discuss the option with their manager and note it properly in their time sheets.”

The religious holiday policy is one of dozens of actions Capital Health has taken in recent years to recognize and celebrate diversity.

“We have a strong commitment within our leadership to honour and respect all our staff,” says Bruce English, Director of People Services. “Putting this policy in place is a concrete step that shows how much we value diversity at Capital Health.”

Yaffa agrees and adds that this policy “fortifies inclusiveness and a sense of belonging.”

Capital Health also publishes a yearly diversity calendar, which educates staff on the wide range of non-Christian religious holidays and celebrations marked by staff.

“The calendar is like a toolkit for managers, directors and colleagues who may only be aware of Christian religious holidays,” says Yaffa. “We encourage managers to ask staff who take a Hindu holiday, for example, if the celebration can be shared or marked in some way here at work. It’s an opportunity for us to all learn from each other.”

Because of privacy concerns, Capital Health does not keep statistics on the religious choices of staff members. Staff members who wish to learn more about the Religious Holiday in Lieu clause can contact People Services, or discuss it with their manager.