Ethical veganism

We have reported before on the interesting case of an employee whose deep-seated belief in ethical veganism was recently considered by the Employment Tribunal. The employee discovered that his employer, The League Against Cruel Sports, invested some of its pension funds in firms which used animal testing. The employee raised his concerns, but the resulting outcome was his dismissal.

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. Amongst many other things, it protects people from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the workplace and includes protecting someone from being discriminated against because of a particular philosophical belief they hold. To establish such a belief an individual needs to show that:

  • it is a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information;
  • the belief is genuinely held;
  • the belief concerns a 'weighty' and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • it is 'worthy of respect in a democratic society'; and
  • it is held with 'sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance'.

The employee successfully argued in his Employment Tribunal that his ethical veganism was a philosophical belief protected by discrimination legislation.

By way of update, the case has recently settled without a further hearing. The League Against Cruel Sports has acknowledged that the employee did nothing wrong in raising his concerns. 

Thus, the extension of issues which are capable of amounting to protected characteristics under the equality legislation continues. 

This does not change the law as such, and anyone claiming a philosophical belief must pass the test above. But it does give ethical veganism the same importance as religious identity as far as the legislation is concerned. Employers should be reviewing their policies and procedures to consider what aspects of their offering to employees should comply with vegan principles.

To discuss this or any other employment matter, contact us.