My client wants to know if they need to do anything, in particular, to support vegan employees at work?
Veganism seems to have become more widespread in recent years, with a growing number of individuals opting for a plant-based diet free from animal products. Although individuals’ dietary choices may not necessarily be high up on employers’ list of concerns, it is admirable that my client is considering the support they offer to vegan employees in the workplace.
After all, a tribunal judge has recently suggested that that veganism could qualify as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010 in the future, stating their opinion that the belief consisted of ‘clear cogency and cohesion’. Under the Act, a philosophical belief will receive protection so long as it is genuinely held, is about a substantial aspect of human behaviour and is worthy of respect in a democratic society. Because of this, it may be that, in the future, individuals are protected from discrimination and harassment that is based on their veganism.
Therefore, to ensure that my client’s workplace remains inclusive for vegans, some thought is required. For example, as vegans abstain from the consumption of animal products, your client should pay close attention to the food on offer in any staff canteen or pre-arranged business lunch, ensuring there are always vegan options available.
My client should reconsider if any dress codes require vegans to wear items made from animal products, such shoes or belts made of leather, as doing so could potentially place them at a disadvantage. If so, my client should consider the materials used in uniforms and ensure that they do not pose a problem for vegan employees.
Specific tasks allocated to vegan employees may need to be adjusted if it would make the employee feel uncomfortable. For example, asking a vegan to design a marketing campaign for a butchers shop may not be appropriate.
As with all protected characteristics, employers should have a zero tolerance stance towards bullying and harassment of vegans and deal with any complaints swiftly and seriously. Anti-harassment training should be conducted by all employers to ensure employees are aware of what counts as unacceptable behaviour.
Overall, my client should look to create an inclusive workplace that does not marginalise any employee, regardless of their beliefs. By following this approach, they will reduce the likelihood of any issues occurring relating to veganism and allow staff to continue to perform at their best, without feeling hard done to at work.