A recent Tribunal case leads to the assumption that Veganism is to be respected as a belief and therefore vegans are to be protected under the Equality Act. What does this mean for employers?
While Tribunal cases are not definitive in determining future cases, employers would be wise to treat an employee who is a vegan with care. They should not discriminate against him or her by reason of that belief. That applies to recruitment, promotion, training and discipline, as with other protected characteristics.
Perhaps the biggest risk is that vegans might be taunted by others; that would be harassment and unlawful.
It does not mean that a woman operating the killing machine in a chicken factory, who turns vegan, is entitled to be moved to another job. It would be sensible to move her, of course. But just as the Christian registrar who did not want to perform civil partnership ceremonies, it may (in theory at least) be lawful to insist she continues to carry out her job; i.e. kill chickens! It would be an interesting Tribunal case.
Whether or not a belief is protected can only be determined by a Tribunal (or higher court). But we might see further “genuinely held philosophical” beliefs tested in Tribunals.
It should be kept in mind that Tribunal cases can be challenged and changed by higher courts. But, for now at least, it would be best to see vegans as protected.
Malcolm Martin FCIPD
Author Human Resource Practice
Blogs are for general guidance and are not an authoritative statement of the law.