Breaking News: Tribunal rules that ‘ethical veganism’ is a philosophical belief

A Tribunal has ruled that ‘ethical veganism’ is a ‘philosophical belief’ and is covered by the Equality Act 2010. Here’s how it affects the workplace.

BrightHR Team

In 2018, Jordi Casamitjana alleged he was unfairly disciplined and sacked by The League Against Cruel Sports for being an ethical vegan. The League said Mr Casamitjana was fired for gross misconduct, but the claim went to an employment tribunal.

The case is still ongoing, and while it’s yet to be determined whether Mr Casamitjana was sacked in relation to his veganism, on 3rd January 2020 a Tribunal ruled that he was “satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.”

The legal bit

To qualify as a philosophical belief, ethical veganism had to meet the following criteria:

  • The belief must be genuinely held.
  • It must be a belief—not just an opinion or viewpoint.
  • The belief must relate to a substantial aspect of human behaviour and be worthy of respect in a democratic society.
  • It can’t conflict with anyone else's fundamental rights.
  • It has to have a certain level of cogency and cohesion.

This Tribunal’s decision that ‘ethical veganism’ should be protected under the Equality Act 2010 is the first decision of its kind. Although the decision is non-binding, it could have significant and far-reaching effects in the workplace…

As an employer, here’s what you need to know:

Understand ethical veganism

First, you need to understand the difference between a dietary vegan and an ethical vegan, because the ruling relates to ethical veganism only.

A dietary vegan chooses not to eat any animal products, but an ethical vegan chooses not to eat, buy or use any animal products at all, including such things as wearing leather or using cosmetics tested on animals.

And this choice is for ethical reasons relating to animal welfare and suffering—as opposed to a personal health choice or other reason, such as Veganuary.

Protect yourself from discrimination claims

As an employer you should already have a zero-tolerance policy for any discrimination in your workplace.

But as this Tribunal arrived at this decision, you need to be even more mindful of the potential consequences if this belief isn’t treated with respect in your business…

For example, some staff members might see their comments on veganism as ‘harmless banter’, but could actually cause great offence. And if you know this is happening in your workplace, it’s your responsibility to manage the situation accordingly—or you could find yourself facing a discrimination claim.

Create clear company policies

If you want to check your policies are drafted appropriately, one of our friendly legal experts will take you through exactly what you need to do. BrightAdvice is open 24/7, so you can call us anytime on 0800 783 2806.