Are Christmas hams for employees offensive?

HRM looks into the ins and outs of celebrating Christmas in a culturally diverse workplace.

Are Christmas hams for employees offensive?
Kiwi employers are altering their Christmas celebrations to cater for increasingly diverse workforces.

Many organisations are replacing traditional booze-fuelled festivities with events which are universally suitable – the surge in migration to New Zealand has resulted in more workers with a cultural background requiring abstinence from alcohol or specific foods.  

Events such as cooking classes and family-friendly outdoors functions are seeing a rise in popularity as employers are making more effort to cater for the various customs of their staff.

It is also important for employers to reconsider their Christmas traditions, as some practices could be deemed inappropriate or offensive by some workers.

“Gone are the days of giving everyone a ham for Christmas as it's just not appropriate anymore,” Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie, Equal Employment Opportunities Trust chief executive, told The New Zealand Herald. “You just can't give everyone a ham and think it's okay. If you've got Muslims in your workforce it's offensive to give them a ham.”

Many employers are now choosing to give staff supermarket vouchers instead of conforming to traditions such as bestowing a Christmas ham upon workers.

According to the last Census conducted, there are 213 ethnic groups living in New Zealand, with the number of Hindus and Muslims rising by 40% since 2011, and the number of Sikhs doubling.

The number of Chinese, Indian and Filipino people had also increased significantly.

According to Cassidy-Mackenzie, employees who do not drink, are religious, older workers or have children can feel alienated by “after-five type events”.

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