Nick Hobden, a Partner at the law firm Thomson Snell & Passmore, said the ruling, which made national headlines earlier this month, could result in raft of new claims against employers.
He said: “There may well be a surge of discrimination claims, in light of the statement by the Vegan Society that there are some 600,000 vegans in the UK alone.”
He continued: “For the first time, an employment tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and therefore enjoys the same protection as other philosophical beliefs under the Equality Act 2010.
“This means that they should be entitled to similar legal protections in the workplace as those who hold religious beliefs. The tribunal judge found that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief as it satisfies the test that it is ‘important’ and ‘worthy’ of respect in a democratic society.”
But he added: “It should be noted, however, that this case was heard at a First Tier Employment Tribunal so is not legally binding but instead provides guidance for future judgments.”
He said local businesses needed to be aware of how the landmark case could affect them going forward.
“Protected characteristics are well known in employment law. The basic premise is that employers do not discriminate, or allow their workforce (for which they will likely be vicariously liable) to discriminate against people because of their protected characteristic,” he explained.
“This should be enshrined in equality and diversity policies and engrained in a workforce through regular training.
“In light of the tribunal’s ruling, it would be wise for businesses to ensure that policies, training and practices are updated to ensure that they do not fall foul of the Equality Act 2010.
“It may also be worth considering a few minor changes to ensure a more cohesive workforce. Some changes could be simple, such as planting the seeds in your workforce’s mind that a more inclusive approach should be taken, and rethinking food options available at work.”