CROSSLAND employment solicitors commissioned a survey of 1000 employers and 1000 vegan employees to understand better how vegans were perceived and treated in the workplace and whether employers were making any changes to accommodate this growing trend.

The starting point is that vegans are not to be confused with vegetarians. Vegetarians do not eat meat or fish but according to the Vegan Society’s website veganism is ‘a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose’.

It is not just about diet but about firmly held beliefs.

Because of this, a true vegan is likely to be covered by the Equality Act 2010, which protects philosophical beliefs as well as religious beliefs. Provided it is a genuinely held belief and not just an opinion or viewpoint and ‘cogent, serious and applies to an important aspect of human life or behaviour and be worthy of respect in a democratic society and not affect other people’s fundamental rights’ then it will be covered.

Although there has been no actual cases on veganism in the tribunals, one is expected later this year in Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports, with Mr Casamitjana claiming he was dismissed for being a vegan.

Indeed our research discovered that nearly half of 1,000 vegan employees questioned have felt discriminated against by employers, while nearly a third have felt harassed at work or unfairly treated due to their veganism, (rising to 36% amongst millennials).

Nearly half of the 1,000 employers surveyed admitted that they don’t do anything to accommodate vegans such as vegan food in the canteen or supplying toiletries free from animal testing. The study found discrimination between how vegetarians and vegans are treated, with 78% of employers saying they do cater for vegetarians’ dietary beliefs or requirements.

Amongst vegan employees, only 18% said their staff café offers vegan options with some claiming to also “feel pressured to fit in with limited menu choices at work functions.” 96% have to sit on leather furniture at work, 86% are only given the choice to wash their hands in the office with soap that’s tested on animals, and a mere 6% are provided with a vegan uniform free from leather and wool.

It is also clear that there is a degree of scepticism with one vegan employee commenting “Some of my colleagues make disparaging comments about fads.” 24% of employers believe that most of their employees or friends who have chosen to be vegan as a lifestyle choice have done so because it’s fashionable, to help them to lose weight or to look good. Only 63% think their vegan friends are ‘genuine vegans’ due to animal or environmental concerns.

Whilst many employers may roll their eyes at yet another thing they need to take into consideration in the workplace, the bottom line is that more and more of the younger generation are adapting a true vegan lifestyle and unless employers accept this and make their workplaces more vegan friendly, then they will find it hard to recruit.