Are Christmas hams for employees offensive?

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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”.
  • Heidi on 15/12/2014 1:25:18 p.m.

    This is just about being thoughtful.

    The gift-giver would normally consider the budget they have to spend and what the recipient would like. Simple as that. In a workplace context it's really pretty easy to offer an option - either the traditional gift of a nice big ham or say, a basket of delicious seasonal fruit.

    The same when it comes to hospitality. When we are entertaining, as hosts we consider the budget we have to spend and what our guests would like to eat, drink and experience. In the workplace context this may be as easy as offering some festive non-alcoholic drinks and tasty vegetarian treats, in addition to traditional Christmas fare.

    If thoughtful gift-giving and being hospitable is a hassle in the workplace context, I think we should address what is really driving that sentiment.

  • roman on 14/12/2014 10:48:06 a.m.

    Agree with Helena's comment!

  • Helena on 11/12/2014 1:17:57 p.m.

    I think in all the diversity-aware, non-offensive thinking there is one thing we forget, by taking a 'better not offend anyone' stance - we lose the festivities that a great number of our employees look forward to each year, and when the things we look forward to are removed, disappointment presents and often turns to disengagement. Taking no action IS a form of action, taking a no-side, no-"Christmas" is taking the side of the ones that don't do Christmas. Not to say that celebrating it is the right thing or the only option, but don't make the mistake in the attempt to consider the wishes of the few, that you may in turn dismiss/disregard and disengage the many.

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