Ethical vegans at work: how employers can support them and avoid discrimination claims

March 3, 2020

 

In January 2020, an Employment Tribunal held at an initial hearing that a Claimant’s ethical veganism was protected from discrimination because it amounted to a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.

In response to this decision, the Vegan Society released guidelines for employers to help and encourage them to support their vegan employees. The Vegan Society suggested an employer could take the following actions in order to support vegan employees and protect them from discrimination in the workplace:

  1. Send out a ‘dietary requirements’ sheet for catered events to ensure that vegans have the opportunity to request vegan food.

  2. Ensure kitchen facilities are acceptable for them to use, e.g. providing colour coded equipment so that they can tell what has or hasn’t been contaminated by meat or dairy products.

  3. Designate dedicated food storage areas for vegans, such as a shelf in the fridge especially for vegan foods.

  4. Ensure that vegan workers have access to vegan-friendly clothing or items.

  5. Exempt vegans from attending non-vegan friendly corporate events, such as horse racing or ‘hog roast’ barbeques.

  6. Exempt vegans from participating in buying non-vegan products.

  7. Discuss vegan-friendly options for investment in relation to pension funds.

Each guideline is only a suggestion and whether it can be practically implemented or not will depend on an employer’s business needs.

Employers must now be mindful that any jokes or derogatory comments about vegans in the workplace may amount to an act of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, in order to reduce the risk of legal action, employers should make sure that they lead by example and create a positive environment for their vegan employees, and reiterate to others that it’s important to be respectful of the beliefs of others.

 

 

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