What the Veganism Judgement Really Means for Employers

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Even if you weren’t following last week’s employment tribunal, you will have no doubt heard in the news or on social media that a Judge has ruled that vegans are protected from discrimination.

Whilst some are calling it a “landmark legal case” – and many are making their views on both sides of the vegan-debate well known – it’s not as clear cut as many news outlets are making out.

What’s important to bear in mind is that the judgement isn’t binding on future cases, nor does it have any effect on the law itself. Also, there is a distinction between what the claimant referred to as “ethical veganism” which is a far-reaching belief system, and simply following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

When it comes to the meaning of the ruling, the real answer is that nobody really knows what effect it will have or how similar cases will be decided in the future.

That said, especially as this case could embolden other vegans to make discrimination claims, employers should be mindful of reasonable steps they can take in the workplace. For example –
  • If you offer a staff canteen, cater events or organise parties you should be mindful of having vegan (and not just vegetarian) options available.
  • If you provide employees with or require them to wear a staff uniform, you may need to offer vegan-friendly options that avoid wool or leather.
  • Keep an ear out for comments or “banter” which is about – or at the expense – of vegans (even if you don’t have any vegan employees yourself).
  • Whilst it may seem an odd topic for conversation, don’t ask about diet or discuss animal welfare during the recruitment process.
  • Make sure that any recruitment, promotion or performance management decisions are well documented and could not lead to a claim of discrimination from a vegan employee.
If anything, last week’s ruling has created a lot of uncertainty and the best advice right now is to get advice on any specific issues in your business. If you have a question or are worried about an employee or policy in your business, please give me a call – I’m always happy to help.

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