Partner Jane Kola comments in Pensions Expert on the challenges the tribunal ruling on veganism presents to the pensions industry
A landmark ruling finding that veganism is a philosophical belief will have a wider impact in the pensions industry, experts say, but warn trustees to avoid making knee-jerk changes to their schemes.
Employment judge Robin Postle found on January 3 that ethical veganism was worthy of protection under the Equality Act 2010.
In the case brought by Jordi Casamitjana, it was claimed that he was unfairly dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sports, an animal welfare charity, for raising concerns about the way the League’s pension scheme was invested – including in companies that experimented on animals.
Even though Mr Casamitjana was able to choose to invest his own pension in the self-select ethical fund and did so, his concern was that donors to animal protection charities have the right to expect their donations will be invested in a way that is compatible with their beliefs.
He argued that it was not merely sufficient to give employees the option to select an ethical fund.
Jane Kola commented: “For defined contribution default funds, the primary objective is to provide good member outcomes and value for money.
“As the focus is on good financial outcomes for members, this presents real challenges in taking account of member beliefs where there is no consensus view among members, and the impact of taking belief into account is potentially financially detrimental.”
She also warned “employment tribunal decisions are not legally binding precedents, so there is no certainty that another case would be decided in the same way.
“Press reports suggest that the equality law status of ethical veganism was not challenged in legal argument, so weakening its value as a guide to other employers.”
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