On the 3rd January 2020, the Norwich employment tribunal ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010. Mogers Drewett first published an article about ethical veganism a year ago. Following the landmark decision this month, Annie Hill, Paralegal in our Employment & HR team, highlights the potential implications for employers.
This hearing marks the first stage in Jordi Casamitjana’s claim that he was unfairly dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), after he expressed concerns to his colleagues about the type of pension funds the company was investing in on its employees’ behalf. The hearing established that ethical veganism satisfied the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act 2010. Subsequently, ethical veganism has gained the same protected status as characteristics such as beliefs in climate change and anti-fox hunting.
The Tribunal is yet to rule on Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal, which is scheduled to be decided in a 10 day hearing beginning on the 24th February 2020. Despite not contesting that ethical veganism should be protected, LACS continue to maintain that Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal was due to his gross misconduct and not the philosophical beliefs that he holds.
This landmark decision could mean that employers run the risk of an employee with these beliefs claiming that discrimination is a factor in their dismissal. In order to avoid conflicts such as these, we recommend reviewing working practices and procedures in order to avoid claims of discrimination in the workplace.
We reiterate our suggested pre-emptive steps:
• Having adequate policies and procedures in place – having policies such as disciplinary and grievance policies and equality policies to let employees know what is, and what is not acceptable in the work place, and how any issues will be dealt with.
• Training – employing structured training can help to reinforce the information in your policies. This can be a good time to touch base with employees to get their feelings and feedback on the culture within the workplace.
• Management focused initiatives – ensuring that managerial staff actively monitor and guide the culture of the business by undertaking ‘ear to the ground’ and ‘open door’ policies allows issues to be dealt with before they become a problem.
For a free initial conversation with one of our employment specialists about any of the issues raised above please contact us today on 01225 750 000.