In the case of Owen v Willow Tower Opco 1 Ltd ET/2400073/2022, the Employment Tribunal found that a care home worker’s alleged belief in ethical veganism was not genuinely held and was therefore not a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010.
The care home mandated that all staff were to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. This led to the Claimant raising a grievance, as she believed she should be exempt from the requirement as a result of her vegan diet.
Following this, the Employer referred the Claimant to occupational health, who verified that she had no health condition preventing her from being vaccinated. As s result, the Claimant’s grievance was not upheld and she was dismissed.
The Claimant submitted a claim to the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal and discrimination based on religion or belief.
During the hearing, the Tribunal accepted that the Claimant followed a vegan diet and avoided using some non-vegan products. However, other than her diet and use of some products, the Claimant failed to describe how she had altered her life to follow the belief and referred very little to ethical veganism in her grievance documents. Instead, the Claimant’s major criticism of the vaccine appeared to be that it was experimental.
The tribunal held that due to the lack of evidence, it could not find that the Claimant genuinely held a belief in ethical veganism.