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Study finds nearly half of vegans feel discriminated at work

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The results of a new poll have revealed a worrying 48 per cent of vegans feel discriminated against by employers.

The findings, commissioned by employment law specialists, Crossland Employment Solicitors, also found that nearly a third (31 per cent) have felt harassed at work or unfairly treated due to their veganism and that 71 per cent of employers said vegans should just focus on their work and keep their beliefs to themselves.

In terms of the negative comments vegans have faced at work, “My boss refers to vegans as tree-huggers”, “management don’t understand vegans and make ignorant comments” and “vegans are as weird as new age travellers” are just some of them.

Furthermore, 48 per cent of 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 per cent of employers saying they do cater for vegetarians dietary beliefs or requirements.

Among vegan employees, only 18 per cent said their staff cafe offers vegan options, with some claiming to also feel pressured to fit in with limited menu choices at work functions.  Of those employers who do accommodate vegans, nearly a third (32 per cent) said it’s costly or can be difficult to cater for vegans and 21 per cent said it’s risky in case they get it wrong.

While three per cent of bosses said they wouldn’t hire someone if they knew they were vegan, which is likely to be contrary to the Equality Act 2010, the survey also found that almost three quarters of UK employers (74 per cent) do not realise that under the Equality Act 2010 ‘philosophical beliefs’ are a protected characteristic in employment law. This is likely to include veganism.

Beverley Sunderland, Managing Director, commented: “Our research shows that prejudiced attitudes towards vegan workers is endemic among British employers and a lack of understanding as to the potential impact of the Equality Act 2010. 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 applies to an important aspect of human life or behaviour and be worthy of respect in a democractic 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.”

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