is veganism a protected characteristic

Vegan awareness in the workplace

Employers may need to do more to consider the needs of their vegan employees and ensure they are being treated with respect, otherwise they risk falling foul of the Equality Act 2010.

Recent research published by Personnel Today showed that 48% of employers currently do nothing to accommodate vegan requirements at work and 74% did not know that under the Equality Act 2019, veganism could be covered under the umbrella of ‘philosophical beliefs’ and therefore be a protected characteristic in employment law.

The article also highlighted there can be many difficulties for vegans in the workplace such as no or limited menu choices at work, uniforms made with wool or leather, having to sit on leather furniture and using products such as hand soap, which has been tested on animals.

According to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled between 2014 and 2018 and around 1.16% of the UK’s population or 600,000 people are now vegans. Campaigns like Veganuary, where people eat vegan for the month of January have been very popular and around 10% of British children aged 8-16 are now either vegan or vegetarian.

Employers should therefore be considering doing more now to understand veganism and if necessary, review their approach to dealing with it in the workplace.

There is a landmark employment tribunal case which will be decided later this year. An animal rights activist claims he was discriminated against by his former employer and was sacked because he is a vegan. Jordi Casamitjana says he was fired by the League Against Cruel Sports after disclosing the organisation allegedly invested pension funds in businesses involved in animal testing. His employer claims it was gross misconduct.

Protected beliefs are set out in the Equality Act but the category ‘philosophical beliefs’ is undefined. Case law has said this can cover climate change, fox hunting and a belief in Scottish independence. Given it has been said such beliefs must concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life, perhaps veganism will quality.

It is really important to stay ahead with employment law and legislation and we are happy to guide businesses through it.

According to statistics over the next few years it is likely that more young people entering the workplace will be vegan or vegetarian, so acting now will help to ensure people are protected and businesses are aware of their responsibilities.

Amanda Finn can be contacted at