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Food for thought: Employment Tribunal to consider whether ethical veganism is protected under discrimination legislation

In March 2019, an Employment Tribunal will decide for the first time whether ethical veganism is a “philosophical belief” under one of the nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010, namely “religion or belief”. If the Employment Tribunal decides that it is, then it would still likely be subject to appeal. So it would unlikely finally determine issue.

It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate directly, by treating an employee less favourably than others because of their religion or belief.

Case law has set out a series of tests to determine whether a philosophical belief falls within the scope of the protected characteristic, “religion or belief”.

If the Tribunal decides that ethical veganism is a protected characteristic, then the discrimination claim will proceed to a full hearing.

Jordi Casamitjana claims he was dismissed from his role as head of policy and research at the League Against Cruel Sports after raising concerns to his manager and other employees that it was investing pension funds in companies that tested on animals. He alleges that as a result of his disclosures he was unfairly disciplined and subsequently dismissed. Mr Casamitjana claims that the reason for his dismissal was due to his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.  The League Against Cruel Sports says he was dismissed for gross misconduct and denies that he was dismissed because of his veganism.

If the Tribunal finds ethical veganism to be a protected characteristic, subject to the first instance decision not being overturned on appeal, it will ensure ethical vegans are protected against discrimination (direct and indirect), harassment and victimisation.

Practically speaking, if vegans are given protected status then employers will need to understand more about what veganism means in practice and consider any particular needs vegans may have in the workplace.

Food for thought: Employment Tribunal to consider whether ethical veganism is protected under discrimination legislation

Government framework for voluntary reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing: what is expected of employers?

Following the 2017 Thriving at Work Review, the government has developed a framework to support large employers with recording and voluntarily reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing. The government hopes that transparency in this area will help drive the culture change which is needed to foster a more inclusive society.
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Government framework for voluntary reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing: what is expected of employers?

Is it safe to dismiss an employee who is receiving long-term disability benefits?

The EAT has dealt a blow to employers, confirming that the purpose of permanent health insurance and similar schemes would be defeated if an employer could end entitlements under this type of scheme by dismissing the employee on grounds of capability. 
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Is it safe to dismiss an employee who is receiving long-term disability benefits?

Context is key in claims of harassment

In the recent case of Evans v. Xactly Corporation Limited the EAT considered whether calling an employee a "fat ginger pikey" constituted harassment relating to disability and/or race. In the particular circumstances of this case, the EAT held that it did not.
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Context is key in claims of harassment

Government to propose mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting

As UK companies with more than 250 employees are now required to publish gender pay gap information, the government has turned its attention to the ethnicity pay gap.

On 11 October 2018, the government launched a consultation seeking views on ethnicity pay reporting by employers to inform future government policy. The consultation, which closes on 11 January 2019, asks what ethnicity pay information should be reported by employers to facilitate meaningful action, without unduly burdening businesses.

The consultation focuses on what ethnic pay reporting should look like and how it should be introduced. It outlines different approaches to reporting, ranging from the average hourly earnings of different ethnic groups to reporting ethnicity pay information by pay band or quartile. The government is also seeking views on whether any contextual factors, such as gender or age, should form part of the reported information.

Alongside its consultation, the government has also announced a new “Race at Work Charter”. Employers who adopt the charter (which is voluntary) will commit themselves to a set of principles that aim to improve recruitment and progression for employees from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Although ethnic pay gap reporting is currently not mandatory, employers who want to be seen as serious about diversity and equality may want to consider reporting. Hopefully many will have a positive tale to tell, helping them attract top talent from all ethnic backgrounds; those who find that they do have a material ethnic pay gap will be able to take action to tackle it and report their progress in doing so.

 

Government to propose mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting

NHS accused of ethnic discrimination following senior doctors’ pay gap

Recent research published by the British Medical Journal suggests that senior doctors from black or minority ethnic (‘BME’) backgrounds earn approximately 4.9% (or £5,000) less in mean basic pay than their colleagues from a white ethnic background within the NHS.

The findings of the study also demonstrate that:

  • BME doctors feel discriminated against in relation to clinical excellence awards, interviews and promotions which is perhaps supported by the fact that only 7% of senior managers in the NHS are from a BME origin; and
  • a high number of BME doctors (when compared to their colleagues from a white ethnic background) work in unpopular specialities within the NHS, such as psychiatry or rehab medicine, and in remote districts.

The Director of Research and Chief Economist at the Nuffield Trust thinktank, John Appleby, has questioned whether the pay gap could be due to consultants working in the NHS from a white ethnic background typically being older and more experienced than their BME colleagues. However the disparity between salaries is too large to go unnoticed and requires further investigation. The BMA chair, Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, has insisted that the government and NHS address this suspected disparity and, in response, the NHS has commissioned its own study and confirmed its intentions to tackle the issue.  It remains to be seen how its will achieve this. In the meantime, an ongoing inquiry into the gender pay gap within the NHS should also help identify the reasons behind the gap and workable solutions for reducing it.

NHS accused of ethnic discrimination following senior doctors’ pay gap

Sex discrimination case flushed out of the Tribunal system with a £25,000 settlement

A female council worker has settled her sex discrimination claim for £25,000. She was instructed to go to a different office, ahead of an inspector's visit, to clean the kitchen and the toilets. She was told the toilets "needed a woman's touch" despite the fact that cleaning was not within her job description.
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Sex discrimination case flushed out of the Tribunal system with a £25,000 settlement

Eid al-Adha: dealing with religious festivals in the workplace

Eid al-Adha (known as the festival of sacrifice), the Islamic holiday marking the end of the Hajj pilgrimage, is due to begin this coming Tuesday (21 August). The festival is celebrated with prayer and feast, typically on a large scale with Muslims in their respective communities coming together to partake in the festivities. Many Muslims may request time off work to celebrate Eid al-Adha, so here are a few considerations for employers to bear in mind as the holiday approaches.
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Eid al-Adha: dealing with religious festivals in the workplace

Testing the limits of religious and philosophical belief discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 (the 2010 Act) prohibits direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and harassment in the workplace in respect of religion, religious belief and philosophical belief.
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Testing the limits of religious and philosophical belief discrimination

Government proposes major overhaul of Gender Recognition Act

The Government Equality Office (GEO) is proposing reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. This Act enables transgender people to obtain legal recognition of their acquired gender by the issuing of a Gender Recognition Certificate and changing the sex on their birth certificate.
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Government proposes major overhaul of Gender Recognition Act