Workplace discrimination has moved into new realms. While employers are familiar with fairness concerning race, gender, religion, sexuality, and disability, a new ruling in January 2020 means businesses may need to be careful where food is placed in the office fridge.
Earlier this year, judge Robin Postle ruled that ethical veganism (a movement in which people do not eat or use animal products) “qualifies as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010 by satisfying several tests - including that it is worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.”
Debunked, this means veganism is now protected by law against workplace discrimination in the same way an employee who follows a certain religion would be, for example. The ruling has given rise to a wave of advice aimed at employers, notably from The Vegan Society, who want immediate modifications in the workplace.
At MPL Interiors, we think it is entirely possible – and easier than you think – to create a vegan-friendly office. Some changes can be made practically overnight, while other issues can be addressed during an office fit-out or refurbishment. Employers may like to consider:
- Fridge etiquette – vegans follow a plant-based diet and cross-contamination with non-vegan foods in a communal fridge should be avoided. A designated vegan shelf, ideally above non-vegan food, should minimise the risk but may still be cause for concern. A separate vegan fridge is an ultimate solution.
- Offer dairy alternatives – dairy is off-limits to vegans, so ensure there is a continual supply of oat, soy, almond and coconut milk for hot drinks and breakfast cereal.
- Swap sofas – many workplaces will have a leather sofa either in reception or in a breakout area. Any real leather items can be replaced with ‘pleather’ examples - a leather-look plastic material - plus any new sofas ordered should be specified with a synthetic covering.
- Investigate humane furniture – as well as sofas; it’s common for office chairs to be upholstered in animal hide. Opt for faux leather, microfiber, and plant-based fabrics, and if you are dressing a seating area with cushions and throws, avoid wool, silk and down. A good office interior designer will help your source vegan-friendly options.
If you are considering an office redesign or would like to make your workplace more welcoming for vegans, MPL can advise you on plant-based, ethical options that don’t compromise on style or functionality.