4th June 2015
The battle against bigotry at work was the focus of the first ever national conference on tackling sectarianism in Scottish workplaces this week as Nil by Mouth held our ‘Beyond Religion & Belief’ conference at Edinburgh City Chambers.
The conference targeted HR and Equalities’ staff from large public and private sector employers as well as charities and trade unions
The event was held in conjunction with City of Edinburgh Council who in 2012 became the first local authority in Scotland to offer dedicated anti-sectarian training to staff through our ‘Beyond Religion & Belief’ project.
More than 100 delegates discussed how to recognise and respond to instances of sectarianism in the workplace including an in depth look at the impact of employees social media activities on employers reputation and the workplace environment.
The afternoon session saw them presented with examples drawn from real life and asked how they would challenge and deal with them within their own workplace. The event also allowed voluntary sector groups carrying out anti-sectarian work across Scotland to showcase their efforts to the delegates.
The event comes just days after of the publication of the final report of the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Sectarianism which highlighted the growing problem of online sectarianism. In recent years there have been a number of high profile incidents regarding sectarian behaviour at work – particularly with regard to misuse of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, research published last year by Edinburgh University highlighted that nearly two thirds of Scottish local authorities were perceived as paying only ‘ lip service’ to protecting faith and belief at work.
Nil by Mouth launched it’s ‘Beyond Religion & Belief’ workplace training scheme in 2011. Since then more than 70 employers and over 3,500 staff have participated in the programme including Network Rail, City of Edinburgh Council, British Transport Police, the Golden Jubilee hospital, the PCS Union and Strathclyde University.
Nil by Mouth Campaign Director Dave Scott said:
‘This has been a fantastic event and we are delighted with both the turn out and the enthusiasm for tackling the issue shown by delegates. This is the first time the public, private and voluntary sectors have come together in this way to debate sectarianism and examine how best we tackle it in a workplace environment.
Sectarianism is a live issue in Scotland and it’s important that employers have a proper understanding and feel equipped to deal with it if, and when, it arises. Since launching our workplace programme we have received requests for advice and assistance from employers and staff, across a range of professions and seen examples of sectarian attitudes right across the employment spectrum – from the boardroom to the building site. This can range from people being overlooked for promotion or overtime to the subtler forms such as access codes for communal staff areas being set to contentious dates. In extreme cases we have seen staff being the victims of verbal or even physical assaults.
We have delegates here representing employers with tens of thousands of staff from right across Scotland and we have already had several of them sign up to join our ‘Beyond Religion & Belief’ training programme. The message must go out loud and clear: Sectarianism has no place in a 21st century workplace.”