Discrimination against veganism is prevalent in the workplace and 74% of managers don’t realise this could be against the law, according to a new survey
Veganism is a growing lifestyle choice and companies such as Gregg’s and Dr. Martens are catering to this newfound market. However, some businesses such as NatWest have been quite vocal in their disapproval. And now a new survey from employment law firm Crossland Employment Solicitors reveals that the mealtime mockery is a common problem.
The survey of 1,000 vegan employees and 1,000 employers revealed criticism of veganism in the workplace certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the former. 45% of the staff said they felt discriminated against by bosses and 31% said they felt harassed or unfairly treated at work because of their veganism – the latter of which rose to 36% among millennials.
Among the discriminatory comments vegans faced were remarks such as “vegans are as weird as new age travellers” while they were also billed as “tree-huggers.”
Some workers were even told not to let customers or colleagues know they’re vegan.
Building on that, most employers insisted veganism wasn’t a subject for the workplace as 94% of bosses considered it wrong for vegans to push their beliefs onto peers. Moreover, 71% of bosses believed employees should focus on the job and 13% said such behaviour is distraction.
Perhaps unsurprisingly as a result of their thoughts on the matter, employers were also found to have a lack of awareness surrounding disciplinary actions for any workers discriminating against vegan colleagues or customers. 51% said a hostile employee should be dismissed while 44% said a verbal warning was acceptable. As such, Crossland cautioned that this could put the employer and employee at risk of a “potential claim of harassment”.
Additionally, 3% of bosses said they wouldn’t hire vegans, something that could lead to the possibility of breaking the law as 74% of bosses weren’t aware that philosophical beliefs come under the Equality Act 2010.
Commenting on veganism in relation to the Equality Act, Beverley Sunderland, managing director of Crossland Employments Solicitors, said: “Veganism is likely to be covered if a vegan has a genuinely held belief and not just an opinion or viewpoint. That belief must be cogent, serious and applicable to an important aspect of human life or behaviour. It must also be worthy of respect in a democratic society and not affect other people’s fundamental rights.
"We’d advise that employers need to be taking such beliefs seriously and acting against those who are derogatory about vegans. After all, if an employee was mocking someone’s religion, their sex or their race, an employer would not hesitate to take serious action.”
While some may find the beliefs of vegans irritating, harassment in the workplace should be dealt with in the same way as any other type of unfair treatment.