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Ethical Veganism is a Protected Characteristic under the Equality Act

A recent groundbreaking case in the Employment Tribunal provides ethical vegans with protection against discrimination and could result in an increase in discrimination claims.

You may recall in our November Bytesize that an Employment Tribunal found that vegetarianism was not a belief warranting protection under the Equality Act. The Employment Judge, in that case, commented that, in contrast, the rationale for being vegan appeared to be more consistent, suggesting a cogency compared to vegetarianism which is more of a lifestyle choice.

In a more recent case, the Employment Tribunal held that “ethical veganism” is protected as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act.

Ethical vegans eat a plant-based diet and avoid all forms of animal products such as not wearing clothes made of leather or wool, and not using products tested on animals. Whereas, dietary vegans are more likely to only eat a plant-based diet.

In this case, an employee raised concerns that his employer’s pension fund was investing in companies that were involved in animal testing and argued that his employer had unfairly dismissed him because of his belief in ethical veganism. The employer argued that the employee was dismissed for gross misconduct and did not contest on whether veganism should be held as a philosophical belief. The Tribunal is yet to decide the full claim but has confirmed, at a preliminary, hearing that ethical veganism satisfies the test required to be a philosophical belief under the Equality Act.

As it is only a first instance Tribunal decision it will not be binding on other Tribunals and each case will depend on its own facts.

For advice on updating your policies and procedures, or if have any queries, in light of this case please contact a member of our employment team on 0115 9 100 200 or click here to send an email.

Posted on January 10, 2020

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