The Claimant in this case worked in a care home as a bank worker. In June 2021 the Respondent made the decision that all staff needed to be vaccinated against COVID 19. This decision was taken as a result of the residents’ family members raising concerns and was made prior to the legislation making vaccinations in the care sector mandatory coming into force.
The Claimant raised a grievance in August of that year after having felt she had experienced “harassment and victimisation” due to her decision not to be vaccinated. The Respondent informed her that she would need to be temporarily redeployed to work in the kitchen or laundry.
At the grievance hearing the Claimant explained that she refused to get vaccinated and believed herself to be exempt from that requirement because she was vegan, and the vaccine contained animal products. She also mentioned her concern that the vaccine was not effective and the potential for side effects.
The Respondent referred the Claimant to occupational health in order to find out if there were medical reasons that following a vegan diet would mean that a person would be unable to get vaccinated. The report stated, “she informs me that she does not have any health condition that prohibits her from taking the covid vaccine, but states she is anxious about taking the vaccine at present since the vaccines are still under clinical trials”.
On 31 August 2021 the Claimant submitted a written request for another grievance hearing on five grounds. This did not mention veganism. The Respondent met with her in September. The grievance outcome was given on 27 September 2021 confirming the grievance was not upheld. A further vaccination review meeting was held in October and again veganism was not mentioned.
The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities)(Amendment/Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 came into force on 11 November 2021 and the Claimant was dismissed the following day.
The Claimant raised a claim for unfair dismissal and discrimination based on religion and belief. The belief in question was her belief in ethical veganism. The Claimant was unable to state when she became a vegan, she accepted that she used non-vegan products at work, and shrugged when asked if she wore wool. The tribunal stated, “All in all she was not able to give much detail at all about her belief.”
This case referred to Casamitjana Costa v The League Against Cruel Sports which held that ethical veganism could be classed as a protected belief. In that case it was discussed that ethical veganism is not simply about diet. The choice to live without animal products informs ethical vegans’ choices in hobbies, jobs and what to wear. In this case the tribunal was not convinced the Claimant genuinely held this belief. Therefore, her claim was unsuccessful.
This case shows that whilst there are a large number of beliefs that have the potential to be protected under the law, the burden is on the Claimant to show that they genuinely hold this belief.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.