HR Bulletin – February 202020th February 2020 - Published by
Case Law Update
Casamitjana v The League Against Cruel Sports – Tribunal rules that vegans are protected by discrimination law
Mr Casamitjana is an ethical vegan who worked for an animal welfare charity. He alleged that he was dismissed after he raised concerns that his employer’s pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing. However, his employer maintained that he was dismissed for gross misconduct.
As Mr Casamitjana was claiming that he had been discriminated against because he is an ethical vegan, the Tribunal had to decide whether ethical veganism could amount to a philosophical belief, and therefore be protected by our discrimination laws. They decided that it could.
What is a philosophical belief? A belief which is genuinely held, is more than a mere opinion or viewpoint and is capable of being taken seriously and treated with respect in a democratic society.
What is an ethical vegan? Somebody who not only follows a vegan diet, but opposes the use of animals for any other reason in order to reduce their suffering.
How does ethical veganism amount to a philosophical belief? The Tribunal accepted that Mr Casamitjana’s belief was genuine, and that he had shown that his belief does not just affect what food he eats, but all aspects of his life – for example, what clothes he wears and what products he uses. This was sufficient for the Tribunal to determine that ethical veganism should be protected.
What is the impact of this decision? The decision has only been made at Tribunal level, therefore it is not binding on other Tribunals. However, it is persuasive and if employers have knowledge that any of their employees are ethical vegans, they should be mindful to ensure that these employees are not treated differently because of their belief, or given reason to believe that they are.
Sunshine Hotel v Goddard – Does a failure to hold an investigation meeting before a disciplinary meeting render a dismissal unfair?
The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that there is no requirement to hold an investigation meeting before holding a disciplinary meeting in order for a dismissal to be fair.
For a fair dismissal, the legislation requires only that an employer must act ‘reasonably’. Provided an employer has all of the information they need to carry out a disciplinary meeting, they will not be acting unreasonably by not having an investigatory meeting with the employee first.
However, employers will need to hold a separate investigation meeting if their disciplinary policy or contracts of employment require it, or if there is a collective agreement in place requiring a separate investigation meeting.
Employers should consider whether suspension is necessary before immediately suspending an employee.
Key legal changes coming into force in 2020
From 6 April 2020 all employees and workers will be entitled to a written statement of terms from their first day of employment – rather than within two months of starting work as currently.
From 6 April 2020 the reference period used for calculating holiday pay for workers whose hours of work vary will increase from 12 weeks to 52 weeks. The aim behind this is to eradicate the impact on workers who take leave after a period of less work.
From 6 April 2020 the IR35 rules will change for private businesses which engage independent contractors. The onus of determining the contractor’s employment status will fall upon them, in a move which follows the changes made in the public sector. We have recently published an article on the new rules which can be found here. The topic will also be covered at our next HR Breakfast Club on Thursday 5th March.