Ethical veganism now a protected belief under Equality Act 2010

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You may have read in the news that, on Friday 3 January 2020, an employment tribunal preliminary hearing ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief that is protected against discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

The case has been brought by Jordi Casamitjana against his former employer, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). Mr Casamitjana alleges that he was dismissed from his employment by the LACS due to his ethical veganism. LACS deny this, arguing that he has been dismissed on conduct grounds.  The preliminary hearing purely focused on whether Mr Casamitjana’s ethical veganism was a belief capable of protection under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore something that could be discriminated against. It was not a determination as to whether he had been unfairly dismissed.

A philosophical belief is one of the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act, that employers must not discriminate against. In order for ethical veganism (or any other belief, for that matter) to fall within the definition of “philosophical belief”, it must satisfy several tests. These include being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not being incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with the rights of others.

This point was uncontested by the LACS and therefore it’s not particularly surprising that the tribunal ruled in the way it did. Mr Casamitjana’s case now continues, with the question turning to whether he was dismissed because of his ethical veganism or for conduct reasons.

Whilst this hearing didn’t determine the outcome of a case, it’s important in that it establishes that the belief in question is now capable of protection. Employees and trade unions will likely be pleased as the outcome offers greater protections for workers. However, employers will be concerned that this could open the floodgates for all sorts of beliefs to receive such protection in the workplace.