Is Veganism The Next Big Employment Law Test?
When something becomes a huge force in society, it causes a lot of changes in the way the legal system works. One of the biggest changes of the last few years has been the rise of veganism. In fact, it’s become such a strong movement that experts think it will be the latest big thing to test our employment laws, and possibly change them forever. All thanks to one landmark case that’s being heard right now. Jordi Casamitjana raised a claim against his former employer, arguing that veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief, and is therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010. So, let’s take a look at what that means.
What Does The Equality Act Say?
The Equality Act 2010 is designed to protect individuals from discrimination at work, and merged together nine pieces of legislation to form a single law for the equal and fair treatment of employees. This law is based on the nine ‘protected characteristics’ of the laws it merged together, and covers:
- Gender Reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual Orientation
The argument about veganism is that it comes under the heading of ‘religion or belief’. To qualify for protection under the Equality Act, a belief must be more than an opinion – it must be genuinely held and relate to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. The law also states that the belief should be sufficiently cohesive, cogent, serious and important, merit respect in a democratic society and be compatible with human dignity. A belief can’t conflict with the fundamental rights of others.
Veganism And Equality
So where does veganism come in then? Well, The Vegan Society defines it as;
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
It’s worthwhile pointing out that there should be a distinction drawn between dietary vegans (those who simply do not eat animal products) and ethical vegans like Mr Casamitjana, who argues that his deeply held philosophy about the rights and dignity of animals goes far beyond an eating habit.
Whatever the outcome of this case, it will likely be a landmark decision, and something that will make case law in the years to come. We’ll be following this one closely, and letting our clients know what the outcome is and how it will affect them.
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Of course, handling all of these new changes to employment law can be tricky, especially if you’re running a small HR department. If you’re having issues with staff, policies or procedures, particularly around religious or philosophical beliefs, or just struggling to understand what you need to do to be compliant, it doesn’t hurt to get a little help and advice from the employment law experts. At Herefords, we offer hands-on, practical advice and guidance around all elements of employment law. Our service is all about guiding you through the minefield, helping you to understand the law and how it applies to your business, including any new changes that come in. And thanks to our new Employment Law Retainer, you can be confident that your key HR decisions and advice are compliant and appropriate. You can find out more about our employment law retainer by clicking here.
Or for more information on handling issues in the workplace, you can get in touch with us and book your free consultation.
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