Protecting vegans at work: your legal duty?

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

January 08 2019

Vegans are used to bad press. But this time, an employment dispute has thrown ethical veganism into the spotlight for a different reason… When Jordi Casamitjana was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports for gross misconduct, he said it was his veganism that put him in the firing line. When his employment tribunal is heard in March 2019, it will answer this question: Is ethical veganism a philosophical or religious belief that should be protected under the Equality Act 2010? The ruling could have a serious effect on your business. Veganism: a philosophical belief? That means veganism could be treated as a religion or belief (and a protected characteristic) under the Equality Act 2010. You could have a duty by law not to discriminate against vegans in your workplace. No more vegan jokes Q: How do you know if someone is vegan? A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you within the first two minutes of meeting them. We’ve all heard the joke. But if vegans are protected under the Equality Act 2010, you’ll need to put a stop to any vegan-related banter in your workplace. You don’t put up with any sexist, racist, or religiously insensitive comments at work. So you’d have to make sure your staff understand that vegans have the same rights as other protected groups. Maybe a bullying and harassment refresher session for staff should do the trick? What’s on the menu? From time to time, you’ll have work-related catering to worry about. If you need to order in a working lunch, make sure it’s labelled so allergy sufferers stay away from foods that might harm them. Throw in a vegetarian option, and there’ll be lunch for everyone. To be on the safe side, add a vegan dish into the mix to avoid any drama. And it’ll make sure you’re not discriminating against any vegans in your workplace. Giving gifts From time to time, you’ll want to reward your staff—everybody likes a gift. A vegan probably won’t enjoy a pair of leather gloves or a box of milk chocolates, though. That’s why shopping vouchers are a fail-safe. Then, whether your colleagues choose to indulge in a fine fragrance or treat themselves to a pair of cosy slippers, everyone’s a winner. Including you. Creating an inclusive workplace Depending on the outcome of Casamitjana’s hearing, the Equality Act 2010 might not protect veganism. And even if it doesn’t, you can still create a workplace culture that includes and protects everyone. After all, you never want your business’s treatment of vegans (or anyone else) to land you with bad press.

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