Landmark employment tribunal – is veganism a philosophical belief?

A landmark employment tribunal will decide next year whether veganism should be regarded as a philosophical belief and therefore receive the status of “protected characteristic” under the law.

An employee is claiming that he was dismissed from his role as head of policy and research at the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) after disclosing it was investing pension funds into firms involved in animal testing. He says he was discriminated against because he is vegan.

He describes himself as an “ethical vegan” because his veganism is based on beliefs rather than being simply a health or lifestyle choice and has said that he brought his discovery to the attention of his managers. He claimed that when nothing happened, he informed other employees and was fired as a result.

LACS dismissed the employee for gross misconduct – not because of his veganism. The organisation said it “emphatically rejects this claim” and added that to “link his dismissal with issues pertaining to veganism is factually wrong”.

An employment tribunal will meet in March 2019 to determine whether veganism is a “philosophical belief” protected by law. If the tribunal decides it is, the discrimination claim will proceed to a full trial.

Religion or belief is one of nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act, alongside age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex and sexual orientation. The Equality Act says a philosophical belief must be genuinely held – not just an opinion or viewpoint. It must also be cogent, serious and apply to an important aspect of human life or behaviour. This belief must be worthy of respect in a democratic society and not affect other people’s fundamental rights.

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