Vegan Candidates : A new risk factor?
A recent survey of vegans by Lifesum suggests that 55% of respondents had experienced harassment or discrimination in the workplace as a result of their veganism.
Perhaps the most public example of this is the high-profile email gaffe by ex-Waitrose Food magazine editor William Sitwell, which saw him suggest “killing vegans, one by one”.
So, with an estimated 3.5m vegans in the UK alone, how seriously should we be taking these new avenues of discrimination?
The Equality Act 2010 has been in force long enough now that we should be familiar with the 9 protected characteristics. But just to recap for you, it’s illegal for a recruiter or employer to treat any candidate or employee unfavourably based on the following:
- Gender reassignment;
- Marriage and civil partnership;
- Pregnancy and maternity;
- Religion or belief;
- Sexual orientation.
It’s number 7 here, “religion or belief”, that opens up the floor to new ideas. This offers protection not only to recognised religions, but also to deeply held philosophical beliefs and in order to be protected, a belief must:
- be genuinely held;
- be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;
- regard a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
- attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion, and importance; and
- be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity, and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.
Based on historical judgments on similar topics, we think that it is incredibly likely that veganism will be recognised as protected.
The landmark case of Jordi Casamitjana is scheduled in for a Tribunal hearing in October 2019. Jordi is claiming that he was dismissed from his place of work at an animal welfare charity as a direct result of raising concerns that they invested their work pension fund in organisations which supported animal testing. The October hearing will firstly assess in principle whether veganism meets the necessary benchmark for protection, before then going on to decide whether this was the reason for Jordi’s dismissal.
Whatever the result of October’s hearing, it’s increasingly clear that this is a developing area of law and we need to hold respect for all core tenets held by candidates and employees that come through our doors.
Watch this space for a further update following the Tribunal hearing of Jordi Casamitjana but in the meantime, for further information on this topic or other matters affecting the Recruitment Sector please contact Kerry Jimenez or Gurpreet Sanghera.