Following last month’s landmark ruling that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief for the purposes of the Equality Act, the Vegan Society has issued guidance to employers to help them avoid direct or indirect discrimination.
Zoologist Jordi Casamitjana filed a claim against his former employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, saying he was discriminated against because of his ethical veganism. A preliminary judgement last month confirmed that Casamitjana’s ethical veganism constituted a philosophical belief and, as such, in line with religious beliefs, was a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act. The full hearing continues of 24th February.
The Vegan Society’s legal expert, Dr Jeanette Rowley, said, “There was never any doubt in my mind that the convictions of vegans come within the scope of legal protection. The strength of this decision is of great significance for vegans and those transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, as we as their employers.”
The Vegan Society’s booklet, Supporting Veganism in the Workplace – A Guide for Employers, provides guidance to businesses on issues such as alternatives to workwear that include leather, the provision and storage of food and drink and thical investments in occupational pension schemes. Rowland added that the Vegan Society is “more than happy to assist any employer who wants to ensure that their policies align with equality duties, and support them in their endeavour to give due regatrd to the needs of vegans”.
The guidance says employers should consider:
- Sending out a ‘dietary requirements’ sheet for catered events, ensuring vegans can request appropriate food
- Designating food storage areas for vegans, for example a shelf in a fridge above non-vegan foods
- Providing milk alternatives for tea and coffee making
- Ensuring vegans have access to vegan-friendly clothing, such as synthetic safety boots
- Exempting vegans from attending corporate events such as horse racing or barbecues
- Exempting vegans from participating in signing off the purchase of non-vegan products
- Supporting vegan employees to discuss their pension investment
Vegan Society spokesperson Matt Turner, said, “This advice to employers has been produced by the Society’s International Rights Network, which is chaired by our legal expert, Dr Jeanette Rowley, who was involved with the case and gave evidence at the tribunal. It’s important that businesses up and down the country take note of these new guidelines and start to include them in their workplace policies and practices as soon as possible.
The guidance also suggests providing training to staff to better understand their vegan colleagues and to update equality policies to include considerations around veganism.
Naturally, being a producer of vegan cheese, Bute Island Foods is well aware of the requirements of the many vegans who work for the company. While we do cater for pescatarian diets, the vast majority of the foods available in the canteen are vegan and dairy free – even down to the crisps on offer (although with the new Sheese and Onion Kettle Chips that is no longer so much of an issue!). And, of course, no foods whatsoever, whether vegan or not, are allowed to be brought on to the premises to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination. With the growth of veganism in this country, we therefore welcome the Vegan Society’s new guidelines and hope that employers throughout the country adopt their suggested measure.