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Employment tribunal rules that vegetarianism cannot be described as a philosophical belief

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Employment tribunal rules that vegetarianism cannot be described as a philosophical belief

In recent case law, an employment tribunal has ruled that vegetarianism is not regarded as a protected belief under s.10 of The Equality Act 2010.  

The claimant resigned from a position working at a hotel in Suffolk, after alleging that he had been discriminated against on the grounds of his vegetarianism. George argued that his belief in vegetarianism amounts to a religious or philosophical belief, which would be regarded as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

The judge stated that George’s stance was an “admirable sentiment” but not one that would amount to a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. However, it is noted that the tribunal did point out that the conclusion may have been different in relation to veganism. The judge said that “vegans simply do not accept the practice under any circumstances of eating meat, fish or dairy products, and have distinct concerns about the way animals are reared, the clear belief that killing and eating animals is contrary to a civilised society and also against climate control”.

The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from unfavourable treatment who hold one of the following protected characteristics; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and/or civil partnership, pregnancy and/or maternity, race, religion and/or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

The Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1st October 2010 and as such, it is still regarded as being fairly new and the scope of some of the provisions being open to interpretation.

In order to be a protected party under s.10 of the Equality Act 2010, a philosophical belief must:

  • Be a belief genuinely held by you
  • Be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available
  • Be a belief as to 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, compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against as a result of a protected characteristic, you may be able to bring a claim for discrimination under the terms of the Equality Act 2010. Please contact our specialist discrimination team for further advice on 01616 966 229.

By Ashleigh Irwin, employment and discrimination advisor