So, it’s January and back to the daily routine.
Many of us, in time-honoured fashion, will be thinking about how we can be healthier and fitter in 2023 after the excesses of the festive season. There’s always dry January, although this year there’s a campaign for people not to stop drinking in January so as to help out the hospitality sector.
Then, there’s Veganuary. This supports people eating a plant-based diet for January with reported benefits for both your health and the planet.
Of those who try it, many will declare it not for them come February. However, with veganism estimated to have had a 360% rise in the UK during the past decade, and in anticipation of many more people becoming vegans in the future, what protections do vegans have in the workplace?
1. Is ‘Ethical Veganism’ Protected Against Discrimination?
On 3rd January 2020, it was ruled that ethical veganism is classified under employment law as a “philosophical belief”. Therefore, vegans are protected against discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
What this means in practice is that employers cannot, either directly or indirectly, discriminate against employees who are vegans on ethical grounds.
There may be some head scratching going on at this point as you think “well what could I do that would discriminate against a vegan?” so let’s look at that.
2. What Are the Potential Areas of Discrimination Against Vegans?
There are some key areas to be examined when considering where you may inadvertently find that you have discriminated against vegans.
Things to be mindful of are:
- Choice of food in any employee restaurant that you manage – if you provide an onsite employee restaurant, you should ensure that there are vegan options.
- Menu choices at other employee events – when arranging employee social events, you should ensure that there are options that would be suitable for vegans.
- Provision of milk – for dietary reasons, where companies provide milk for use in tea and coffee, many have already introduced a plant-based milk option. If you provide milk then providing a plant-based alternative is a sensible step. Similarly, if you provide biscuits or other snacks, make sure that you offer a vegan option.
- Uniform options – Individuals who are vegan on ethical grounds will go beyond simply not consuming any animal-based products. They will also not wear any products that contain materials obtained from animals, such as leather or wool. If employees are required to wear a uniform, you need to ensure that there are options available to vegan workers. As an example no leather shoes or belts.
- Toiletries – In a similar vein, individuals who are vegan on ethical grounds will not use any products that contain animal ingredients or which have been tested on animals. For this reason, if you provide soap, lotion, washing up liquid, you should ensure that these are suitable for vegans.