Employers urged to provide spaces for spiritual reflection

By agency reporter
27 Jun 2008

Employers are being urged to provide prayer rooms and quiet space to meet the needs of employees and promote diversity in the workplace in a guide launched yesterday in the City.

The guide outlines employer’s obligations regarding the religious needs of employees, the business case for providing prayer rooms and best practice on creating and managing effective space. It explains how supporting employees with faith by providing quiet space can make good business sense by helping to attract, motivate and retain staff, and building a reputation for diversity.

The guide has been produced by St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation & Peace, based in the heart of the City of London in the mediaeval church destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1993.

The guide is sponsored by Barclays and The Mercer’s Company, and was created in collaboration with the Employers Forum on Belief, Quiet Room Designs and a number of other organisations.

It is backed by the Department for Communities & Local Government and contains a preface by Hazel Blears MP.

It features case studies of a range of businesses including Norton Rose LLP, BT, Citi, and Transport for London.

The guide explores current best practice in creating and managing prayer space for employees. It is intended for human resources and diversity managers, and for buildings managers, developers, fitters, architects and town planners. It aims to flag up some of the potential pitfalls and offers tips for improving the design or use of existing rooms.

Justine Huxley, Interfaith Projects Coordinator at St Ethelburga’s, commented: “We receive more requests for support with prayer space than any other diversity issue. At the moment, no other such resources exist and our project has generated interest and enthusiasm from many different directions. In the City there is a clear demand for greater accessibility of prayer space and we believe that purpose-built space will become more widespread in the future.”

The guide explores various aspects of best practice in the provision of prayer space such as the need to consult with employees over the management of the space, etiquette for users of the room, and sharing the resource between employees of different faiths. It also looks at the design of the space, providing guidance on the location, size, lighting, furniture, washing facilities and other factors that should be taken into account.

A series of case studies in the guide outline some examples of best practice. Transport for London have made great efforts to provide prayer rooms even where space is extremely limited such as at underground stations and bus depots. Legal practice Norton Rose LLP provide purpose-built washing facilities within the prayer space consisting of low level sinks with a tiled floor.

The Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, commented: “It is a privilege to commend this guide to the design, creation and management of prayer rooms and quiet space at work. No matter who we are, I believe we can all benefit from finding a little time to reflect and rise above the daily routine. I hope this guide will inspire many more businesses, large and small, to help people find their own moments of refuge in a busy day.”

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