A survey has revealed prejudiced attitudes towards vegan workers is endemic amongst UK employers with nearly a third of vegan employees saying they have felt harassed at work or unfairly treated due to their veganism.
A survey commissioned by employment law specialists, Crossland Employment Solicitors, has revealed prejudiced attitudes towards vegan workers is endemic amongst UK employers.
Researchers conducting the study found that nearly half (45%) of 1,000 vegan employees questioned have felt discriminated against by employers, while nearly a third (31%) have felt harassed at work or unfairly treated due to their veganism, (rising to 36% amongst millennials).
Nearly half (48%) of 1,000 employers surveyed in the study admitted that they don’t do anything to accommodate vegans in the workplace such as providing vegan-friendly snacks and drinks, with only 18% saying their staff café offers vegan options. Many employees claimed to also “feel pressured to fit in with limited menu choices at work functions.”
Another aspect of veganism that is overlooked in the workplace is ensuring that the toiletries and cleaning products used in the office are cruelty-free and vegan. 86% of people surveyed said they are only given the choice to wash their hands in the office with soap that’s tested on animals.
The workplace is often not vegan-friendly, with 96% of employees having to sit on leather furniture at work instead of being provided with animal-free alternatives.
Many employees are required to wear a uniform at work such as regulation safety boots which are typically made from leather, but a mere 6% of people being provided with a vegan uniform free from leather and wool.
Employers (32%) surveyed in the study said that the reasons they did not do more to accommodate vegans were due to cost implications, whilst others said it difficult to cater for vegans and 21% said it’s risky in case they get it wrong.
Incredibly, 94% of bosses said it’s wrong for vegans to push their beliefs onto others in the office, despite vegan ethics extending to every aspect of your life.
71% said they should just focus on their work, while 13% said such behaviour can be distracting to other employees. Some vegans also said they had been specifically told not to discuss their beliefs with colleagues, or to tell customers.
Whilst there are many routes that lead a person to adopt a vegan lifestyle, 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.
One vegan employee commented that “Some of my colleagues make disparaging comments about fads.”
While 3% 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%) do not realise that under the Equality Act 2010 ‘philosophical beliefs’ are a protected characteristic in employment law. This is likely to include veganism. A vegan worker commented that “other faith groups are exempt from work clashing with their faith but vegans aren’t.”
In a statement sent to Vegan Food & Living, Beverley Sunderland, managing director, Crossland Employments Solicitors comments: “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 democratic society and not affect other people’s fundamental rights.’
“For example, case law has already decided that belief in man-made climate change is a philosophical belief and there is little doubt that veganism will be considered also when it comes before the Tribunal later this year in the case Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports. 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.”