Why your business should think “vegan”

I am not a vegan myself. Until now, I have given it very little thought. However, an Employment Tribunal has found that you can discriminate against someone because they are an ethical vegan. Perhaps it’s time for you to give this further thought too.

What is a philosophical belief?

One of the less well-known forms of discrimination is a philosophical belief. This is a belief that is:

  • genuinely held
  • a belief, not an opinion, based on the present state of information
  • concerns a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  • attains a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance
  • is worthy of respect in a democratic society; is compatible with human dignity and the fundamental rights of others

Ethical veganism was found to be a philosophical belief.

What is an ethical vegan?

An ethical vegan will not use animal products. They will not eat meat or animal by-products. They will not use items made from animal products or that have been tested on animals.

Is the court finding legally binding?

This decision is not legally binding on other courts.  However, it does indicate what they may decide. Other beliefs, such as climate change, may soon follow suit.

What do I need to think about?

The number of UK vegans is increasing, look at any restaurant menu.

This may become a real issue at recruitment. Let’s say your uniform contained wool or leather. What if your vegan employee refused to wear it? If you took disciplinary action, it could be discrimination.

Areas to think about are:

  • uniform and PPE options
  • catering options
  • leather and wool furniture
  • have soaps and products been animal tested?
  • pension fund options (if applicable)
  • dealing with any jokes or banter that may be offensive

How far do I need to go?

You may find it easy to offer alternatives. Your non-vegan employees may welcome the changes too. Lots of people choose milk alternatives.

Vegans are, of course, entitled to their views. However, they also need to respect other people’s opinions. If they act inappropriately regarding others views, you should challenge that. Firstly by talking to them but, if necessary, through disciplinary action.

Employment law is ever evolving. Employers need to evolve with it, if you would like to know more about this, please contact me.


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