Many of your colleagues and employees may be observing either of two significant holidays this week: Passover (Pesach) and Good Friday. It’s also a good time to remember that all workplaces can focus on accommodating employees’ various cultural, spiritual, and/or religious practices. This is an important part of creating a more understanding, welcoming, and inclusive workplace environment where everyone feels valued and respected.
Passover, also known as Pesach (in Hebrew), is a significant Jewish holiday that begins at sunset on the 15th of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew calendar. This year, Passover begins at sundown on April 5th and ends at sundown on April 13th. Passover celebrates the Israelites’ liberation and escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. The story of their freedom is remembered in detail with a ceremonial meal called the seder which is held on the first two nights. The holiday is observed for eight days (seven in Israel) and often includes themes of springtime, family, remembrance of Jewish history, social justice, and freedom. Often the first two and last two days of the holiday are when those in the Jewish faith may request time off from work for some or all of those days.
Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, falls on April 7th this year. Good Friday is an important Christian holiday that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the central event in the Christian faith. Good Friday is a legal holiday in many national governments around the world, although the U.S. has seen a decline in recent years of workplaces that close for this day. Good Friday comes after Lent, a season of fasting, prayer, and self-discipline for Christians, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday. Many Christians fast or abstain from eating meat on Good Friday to honor the sacrifice of Christ’s flesh on that day. Good Friday can also be an intensely personal day of prayer and devotion, and some employees may request time off work as part of their observance.
As both of these significant holidays fall during the same week this spring, below are a few reminders for how your workplace can be respectful and inclusive in how you approach all cultural and religious/spiritual observances:
- Be intentional about learning more about different cultural and religious/spiritual traditions.
- Use this opportunity to educate yourself and your employees about different religious holidays and practices by incorporating this knowledge into your diversity and inclusion programs.
- Welcome and encourage, but don’t require employees to share their varied customs and traditions so that others can learn more.
- Be mindful of dietary restrictions, providing alternative meal options and break times when applicable.
- Allow flexible scheduling and do your best to accommodate employees who request time off during this time.
- Avoid scheduling important meetings or events, whenever possible, during religious holidays or observances.