Following a court ruling that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief for the purposes of the Equality Act, the Vegan Society has launched guidance to businesses to help them avoid discrimination at the workplace.
Last year, ethical vegan Jordi Casamitjana filed a claim against his employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, saying he was discriminated against because of his ethical veganism.
In January, the court confirmed that Casamitjana’s ethical veganism constituted a philosophical belief and as such was protected under the Equality Act.
‘Supporting veganism in the workplace: A guide for employers’ published by the Vegan Society, provides guidance to employers on issues such alternatives to workwear that include leather, food and drink, and ethical investments in pension schemes.
It also suggests updating companies’ equality policies and organising training to employees to better understand their vegan colleagues and to include considerations around veganism.
Dr Jeanette Rowley, who is The Vegan Society’s legal expert, 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.”
She 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”.
According to the guidance 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.”