Last month, the Employment Tribunal in Casamitiana v The League Against Cruel Sports ruled that 'ethical' vegans have a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010.
The Vegan Society has provided short guidelines which aim to help employers create a 'more welcoming and non-discriminatory workplace' for vegan employees.
What's an ethical vegan?
An ethical vegan is someone who follows a vegan way of life because they believe that using animals for human needs is wrong. As well as not eating meat, ethical vegans don't wear animal based products, such as leather and wool.
A lifestyle vegan is someone who follows a vegan lifestyle from a purely dietary point of view. They may wear leather and wool but refrain from eating animal based products as they believe that a plant based diet is healthier. As such, their refusal to eat animal based products stems from a desire to improve their own health rather than from a belief that causing harm to animal is wrong.
This distinction is important only ethical vegans are protected under the Equality Act 2010.
The guidelines are designed to help employers avoid directly or indirectly discriminating against staff who are ethical vegans and contain some sensible advice that's fairly easy to achieve.
Food at work
It recommends that employers provide a separate shelf space for vegan employees within the office fridge to avoid vegan food being in close contact to animal based produce. If there is a food preparation area, it should be kept clean and, if there is enough space, separated into different areas so that vegans don't have to use the same space as others.
It also recommends that employers provide alternatives to cows milk if they supply milk for their staff to use in hot drinks etc.
Employers that provide food for their staff should also offer vegan options.
Uniforms and required footwear
If your staff have to wear a uniform or wear specific shoes, it recommends that vegans have access to vegan-friendly clothing or other items, such as synthetic safety boots or a non-leather phone case.
Corporate and social events
If you encourage staff to attend social or other corporate events, it suggests that you should exempt vegans from events which conflict with their beliefs such as horse racing or greyhound racing or building events that revolve specifically around animal products such as a ‘hog roast’ barbeque.
It reminds employers that they have a duty to prevent bullying and harassment. Staff should treat their colleagues (vegan or otherwise) with respect and not ridicule them or their beliefs.
Most of these suggestions are common sense and our advice is to accommodate them if you reasonably can.
Need more information?
Please speak to our employment partner Shah Qureshi if you need advice about discrimination claims linked to veganism or any other protected characteristics.