In a preliminary ruling an employment tribunal has rejected a discrimination claim brought by a vegetarian employee, ruling that vegetarianism was not protected by equality law, as it did not meet the criteria for establishing a protected philosophical belief.
The tribunal judge said that vegetarianism as a belief did not have a “similar status or cogency to religious beliefs” in order for it to be a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
In view of the current Extinction Rebellion protests, employers should bear in mind that a philosophical belief in human-created climate change has been established by the courts as a protected belief. This does not necessarily mean that employers are required to permit employees to take time off during working hours to attend climate change protests, but employees who request time off for this reason should not be treated less favourably than employees who may request time off for other non-statutory reasons, unless this can be justified.
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Religion or belief (which includes philosophical belief) is one of the nine “protected characteristics” set out in the Equality Act 2010.