The Daily Telegraph

From food to staff uniforms, ruling will be felt

- Raoul Parekh Raoul Parekh is a partner at GQ Littler Global Employment Lawyers

The ruling that ethical veganism is to be protected by law in the same way as religion means there are some potentiall­y far-reaching implicatio­ns for employers.

They may want to examine how requiremen­ts for uniforms could have an adverse impact on strict vegan employees, for instance if they contain leather or woollen elements, and consider vegan-friendly alternativ­es.

Leather furniture in the workplace may need to be reconsider­ed.

An ethically vegan cleaner might question whether they could be required to clean surfaces used for preparatio­n or storage of meat – though in one case a Sikh employee failed in his attempt to be exempted from a fridge-cleaning rota on the grounds, he said, his faith did not permit him to touch meat.

If employers provide food to employees, they should ensure that there are options for vegans, though the decision does not appear to pave the way for a requiremen­t for extensive vegan options. A tribunal has previously found – in the context of an employee who did not eat pork

– that simply having fewer choices is not a disadvanta­ge for discrimina­tion law purposes. As a minimum, a single vegan option will likely suffice.

Ethical vegan employees are not likely to be able to refuse any contact with animal products: a case involving a Muslim employee in a workplace that contained alcoholic products was decided in the employer’s favour.

It is unlikely that the decision will have major ramificati­ons for the provision of goods and services to which discrimina­tion law applies. The right to a vegan hotel room or a vegan option at a steak restaurant does not yet have the force of law.

While ethical veganism is protected, the case is far from over. The employee has to show his dismissal was linked to his beliefs and not, as his employer says, due to gross misconduct.

‘The right to a vegan hotel room or a vegan option at a steak restaurant does not yet have the force of law’

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