Despite it being only September, the team at ted Learning are already starting to think about our ted Learning Christmas lunch - an event we hold every year to recognise and thank our team for their hard work and commitment to our business. It also tends to be a quieter time for training so means we can all make it. We think of this as an inclusive event, held for all of our team regardless of their faith or religion and take into account the environment to ensure its inclusive to all.
So can we say Christmas or do we risk 'offending' others? Well this is an often quoted myth that time and time again we hear in the training room when we deliver Equality (Inclusion) & Diversity Training – that we cannot celebrate (or even mention) Christmas for fear of offending other religions within the workplace. We hear examples of people using other words like "Winterville" or "Winter Holiday's" instead.
This is completely false. There is nothing in the Equality Act of 2010 that states we should refrain from celebrating Christian Festivities in the UK and we most certainly CAN say Christmas. Indeed by allowing this myth to continue, we are at risk of creating a less tolerant society rather than a more positive one as people believe the PC Police are at work.
Indeed a Government paper due out in the next few weeks argues that British traditions (including the Christian Festival of Christmas) need to be defended to help prevent divisions within communities and workplaces across the UK.
The review led by Dame Louise Casey (the Governments Integration Tsar) stresses that cultural differences need to be dealt with head on rather than ignored by Local Authorities (who often ignore promoting British traditions for fear of being branded racist).
At a meeting of Council Leaders, Casey highlighted a situation where a community centre she had visited referred to their Christmas tree as a ‘festive tree’. The incredibly well meaning (white) Manager, called it this to avoid offending his Asian and Muslim workforce and was concerned that using the word Christmas would do this or that they could be prosecuted.
Casey argues “what offence did this manager think he would be causing?” Her report is expected to emphasise the importance of promoting “Core” British values, traditions and cultures within ethnic communities across the UK.
Rather than focus on the fear of offending others by mentioning (or not) Christmas, let's all get better at recognising other religious festivities throughout the year. Some of our clients have made great progress in doing this already and reaped the benefits of a more inclusive workforce, with a better, clearer understanding of other faiths. This is the solution, not banning Christmas just in case we upset others. I see the genuine surprise and optimism when I let learners know this.