Vegans in the workplace
May 10, 2019 2:22 pm
The rise of Veganism is affecting more than Waitrose. Have you any idea about the sort of vegan issues that may arise at work? Soaps and sofas, vegan menu choices at work events or in a staff restaurant, even Friday treats and birthday cakes, may all be affected. Hot breakfast rolls for staff on cold Fridays may be a risk factor for employers, though for some of us the new Greggs vegan sausage roll may have saved our bacon!
A recent survey questioned 1000 vegan employees, and nearly half say they have been discriminated against by their employers, and about a third say they have been harassed or treated unfairly at work. 1,000 employers were questioned too, and many of them expected vegans to just fit in and keep their views to themselves, with 71 per cent preferring vegan employees not to discuss their non-meat eating views at work. For vegans with absolute lines or a crusading spirit, that may prove a recipe for conflict and disaster. Of the employers that said they do try to accommodate vegans, just under a third said it was a costly or difficult endeavour and 21 per cent of them feared making a mistake.
What are employers legally obliged to do about vegans at work? That depends whether the employee’s veganism is a genuinely held belief and not just an opinion or viewpoint. If it is a genuine, settled and serious belief, then their veganism may be a ‘philosophical belief’ and they will be protected from negative consequences by the Equality Act 2010, in the same way as other protected characteristics like race and gender. If so, then their vegan preferences should be considered and care taken that they are not subject to an unwelcoming or disrespectful working environment.
A legal challenge is likely to be made before long, with the growth in veganism and the crusading militancy some have for their adopted cause. The global warming debate and the environmental benefits of veganism may support the philosophical belief protection argument. The poor old Employment Tribunal (who may well be middle-aged worshippers of the pork chop), will then have to judge whether the particular employee was making a trendy personal lifestyle choice based on their opinion or viewpoint, or whether their veganism is routed in personal belief like a religion or a settled rational philosophy of life. Watch this space!