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Indigenous Retention Strategies and Cultural Leave

Indigenous Retention Strategies and Cultural Leave

If retention of Indigenous workers is a goal for your company, then cultural leave should be addressed in your company policy. A culturally reflective company policy for Indigenous employees is one that makes room for cultural needs and practices. Ensuring all employees are aware of what cultural leave is and why it's important is recommended as a solid step toward building an inclusive worksite.

As our focus on this blog is Indigenous-related, we won't be delving into cultural leave for non-Indigenous employees although one may consider adopting the viewpoint that cultural leave is no less important than parental leave or leave for career development training if you like.

Culture is very powerful - you can’t expect Indigenous workers to leave it at home when they come to work. A culturally reflective company policy will include a definition of “cultural leave”. Get to know the traditions and culture of the community you hire or hope to hire from. And if you are hiring from more than one community, please respect that each community is culturally unique.

Some considerations for a Cultural Leave Policy:

  • Should include a definition of family keeping in mind the extended family. The concept of family means different things to different people within Indigenous communities. For some Indigenous communities “family” extends beyond the immediate family of wife or husband, children, and grandparents. First cousins can be considered as close as brothers and sisters; aunties can be like mothers. What this means, is that if there is a death in a community and an Indigenous worker requests leave to attend the funeral, don’t restrict the bereavement policy to the European concept of family.
  • Should respect seasonal activities - since time immemorial, Indigenous People have pursued seasonal activities related to food gathering, and harvesting. Harvesting traditional and ceremonial food is still very much a part of Indigenous life in rural communities, and for some who have migrated to urban settings. Be aware of the seasonal activities that are critical to the Indigenous community your workers are from. For example, Inuit workers may request the summer off for hunting.

Some situations may arise in which the employee needs more than a few days off and may feel that their only option is to quit their job in order to deal with the situation at home. A flexible approach would be for the manager to talk to them and come to an arrangement about how much time they need and that the time may have to come off their allowed holiday and sick time. Allowing for some wiggle room, and showing flexibility and compassion will go a long way to creating a bond with your Indigenous employees.

Featured photo: Pixabay

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