We regularly receive enquiries regarding whether or not employees can be discriminated against for their diet preferences – particularly vegans and vegetarians.
We now have an indication as to how the tribunals will approach this subject.
This case (Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd and others ET/3335357/2018 (10 September 2019)(EJ Postle, sitting with members) involved a man who was employed for approximately 5 months before resigning from his position due to alleging discrimination on the ground or belief contrary to the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010), his belief being vegetarianism.
At the preliminary hearing, an employment tribunal held that this belief did not qualify for protection under the EqA 2010. In making this decision, the established tests in Grainger Plc v Nicholson UKEAT/0219/09 were applied.
Although the claimant’s belief was genuinely held and was worthy of respect in a democratic society, it failed to meet the other legal hurdles for protection because:
- It did not concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour: vegetarianism is not about human life and behaviour, it is a lifestyle choice and in the claimant’s view, believing that the world would be a better place if animals were not killed for food;
- it did not attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance: the reason for being a vegetarian differs greatly. Vegetarians adopt the practice for many different reasons: lifestyle, health, diet, concern about the way animals are reared for food and personal taste. On this point, the tribunal contrasted veganism, stating, obiter, that the reasons for being a vegan appear to be largely the same and that there was, therefore, a clear cogency and cohesion in vegan belief; and
- it did not have a similar status or cogency to religious beliefs.
This decision is not binding on other tribunals but provides at least one example of how they are approaching religion or belief claims based on vegetarianism.
This case does not speak for those who have diet preferences linked to their religion or belief who may be discriminated against in the workplace.