Following last month’s landmark ruling that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief for the purposes of the Equality Act, the Vegan Society has issued guidance to employers to help them avoid direct or indirect discrimination.
Veganism and the Equality Act
Zoologist Jordi Casamitjana filed a claim against his former employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, saying he was discriminated against because of his ethical veganism.
A preliminary judgment last month confirmed that Casamitjana’s ethical veganism constituted a philosophical belief and, as such, in line with religious beliefs, was a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. The full tribunal hearing continues on 24 February.
The Vegan Society’s legal expert, Dr Jeanette Rowley, said: “There was never any doubt in my mind that the convictions of vegans come within the scope of legal protection. The strength of this decision is of great significance for vegans and those transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, as well as their employers.”
The Vegan Society’s booklet, Supporting veganism in the workplace: A guide for employers, provides guidance to businesses on issues such alternatives to workwear that include leather, the provision and storage of food and drink, and ethical investments in occupational pension schemes.
Rowland added that the Vegan Society is “more than happy to assist any employer who wants to ensure that their policies align with equality duties, and support them in their endeavour to give due regard to the needs of vegans”.
The guidance says employers should consider:
- Sending out a ‘dietary requirements’ sheet for catered events, ensuring vegans can request appropriate food
- Designating food storage areas for vegans, for example a shelf in the fridge above non-vegan foods
- Providing milk alternatives for tea and coffee making
- Ensuring vegans have access to vegan-friendly clothing, such as synthetic safety boots
- Exempting vegans from attending corporate events such as horse racing or barbeques
- Exempting vegans from participating in signing off the purchase of non-vegan products
- Supporting vegan employees to discuss their pension investment.
Vegan Society spokesperson Matt Turner, said: “This advice to employers has been produced by the Society’s International Rights Network, which is chaired by our legal expert, Dr Jeanette Rowley, who was involved with the case and gave evidence at the tribunal. It’s important that businesses up and down the country take note of these new guidelines and start to include them in their workplace policies and practices as soon as possible.”
The guidance also suggests providing training to staff to better understand their vegan colleagues and to update equality policies to include considerations around veganism.