What do you do if you see an advert says: “Unfortunately [applicants] with vegan diets cannot be considered”?
That’s what happened recently when Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust published an adverti for an Occupational Therapist in an Eating Disorders Service. With our associates at the International Vegan Rights Alliance (IVRA), we quickly swung into action to challenge the Trust about the legality of the advert. We also asked the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to examine this potentially unlawful direct discrimination against vegans.
Jeanette Rowley, founding member of the IVRA, said: “The advert was explicitly excluding vegan applicants. Under the Equality Act 2010, this is an example of direct discrimination.
“Direct discrimination can occur when people with protected characteristics are treated less favourably. On this occasion, the NHS Trust were treating vegans less favourably by deciding not to employ them because it was (falsely) assumed that they follow a restricted diet. This less favourable treatment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 because veganism falls within the scope of the protected philosophical belief.”
Jeanette wrote to the Trust to explain that veganism is protected as an ethical orientation and is not a restricted diet or a diet of any kind, and that the Trust is under a duty, created by the Equality Act, not to discriminate and to promote equality of opportunity.
She also advised the Trust to contact us and the IVRA for more information about veganism and its protected status. The Trust dealt with the matter quite quickly by amending the advert.
We are delighted to report that a swift apology and correction followed, with the offending words being removed from the job advert. We hope that qualified vegans now feel able to apply, and will be considered fairly.
A CNWL spokesperson told us: “Thank you for the opportunity to comment. We’re sorry for the offence we caused and yes we did speedily change the advert.
“We welcome anyone of any belief applying for any job in our eating disorders service as long as they can fulfil the specific requirements of that job; in this case it includes modelling eating a broad range of foods patients might perceive as risky.
“This requirement was wrongly summarised as about the person applying and not the clinical requirement of the job and we apologise for that.
“The Eating Disorders Service is a great place to work and provides an excellent service because it has excellent people working there, from a broad range of backgrounds and beliefs, and that’s a strength.”
Vegans have the right to fair treatment in employment. Laws such as The Human Rights Act 1998 (in the UK) and the European Convention on Human Rights give us legal protection. Our right to fair treatment is codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.
Telling potential vegan applicants that they ‘cannot be considered’ can be against the law. Call people out when you see this happen – it’s potentially unlawful. If you think you’ve spotted something that seems to be discriminating against vegans, please take a screenshot of it and get in touch with us immediately at 0121 523 1730 or knowyourrights[at]vegansociety[dot]com.
Thank you for your support of The Vegan Society. You enable us to protect the legal rights of vegans to demand freedom for animals!