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Vegan 'philosophical belief' ruling: Nick Hobden of Thomson Snell & Passmore warns of possible 'surge of claims' in aftermath

Businesses are being warned to expect a "surge of discrimination claims" after the recent tribunal ruling that veganism is a philosophical belief.

It follows the case brought by Jordi Casamitjana who said he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports after raising concerns that its pension fund was being invested into companies involved in animal testing.

Nick Hobden, employment partner from Thomson Snell & Passmore
Nick Hobden, employment partner from Thomson Snell & Passmore

He took the organisation to a tribunal claiming he was unfairly disciplined for making the disclosure and that the decision to dismiss him was because of his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.

The judge ruled that ethical veganism passed the tests required to be a philosophical believe and, as a result, it is protected under the Equality Act 2010.

Nick Hobden, partner at law firm Thomson Snell & Passmore, which has offices in Tunbridge Wells and Dartford, said: "For the first time, an employment tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and therefore enjoys the same protection as other philosophical beliefs under the Equality Act 2010.

"This means that they should be entitled to similar legal protections in the workplace as those who hold religious beliefs. The tribunal judge found that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief as it satisfies the test that is 'important' and 'worthy' of respect in a democratic society.

Greggs have this month launched a vegan steak bake
Greggs have this month launched a vegan steak bake

"However, it should be noted that this case was heard at a first tier employment tribunal so is not legally binding but instead provides guidance for future judgements.

“Protected characteristics are well known in employment law. The basic premise is that employers do not discriminate, or allow their workforce, for which they will likely be vicariously liable, to discriminate, against people because of their protected characteristic. This should be enshrined in equality and diversity policies and engrained in a workforce through regular training.

“In light of the tribunal’s ruling, it would be wise for businesses to ensure that policies, training and practices are updated to ensure that they do not fall foul of the Equality Act 2010. There may well be a surge of discrimination claims, in light of the statement by the Vegan Society that there are some 600,000 vegans in the UK alone.

“It may also be worth considering a few minor changes to ensure a more cohesive workforce. Some changes could be quite simple, such as planting the seeds in your workforce’s mind that a slightly more inclusive approach should be taken, and re-thinking the food options available in your work area.”

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