Expenses | Firm bans staff from claiming back anything with meat

Firm bans staff from claiming back anything with meat

A firm has hit headlines for introducing an expenses policy that only allows employees to claim back work-related costs providing that they don’t contain meat.

According to the BBC, staff working for the property development firm, Igloo Regeneration will only qualify to be compensated for the work expenses they have incurred if the purchase is vegetarian. It was reported that internal staff voted on the idea for the policy and it passed, with just a few employees objecting to it.

This move was prompted by an aspiration to become more environmentally friendly. "We realised we needed the whole company to come on board, it couldn't just be imposed," explained Development Surveyor, Kate Marfleet, who persuaded staff to become vegetarian to reduce its environmental impact.

"We had some justifications as to why it was a good idea, mostly environmental. There were some reservations from staff, but most of those were based on them being unsure of the environmental impact," she told the BBC.

The policy has been described as ‘self-policing’ where staff are urged to make food-related decisions based on their own dietary requirements.

If this means, for example, that an employee has an intolerance to gluten and can’t find a suitable vegetarian option, if they do end up purchasing something that contains meat then they will have to foot the bill.

"And if you are somewhere where there is no vegetarian option, then obviously you shouldn't starve. Even if you decided you really wanted a bacon sandwich, then that's fine, but the company won't pay for it," Marfleet explained.

To boost its environmentally friendly approach, the firm doesn't give out company cars and encourages staff to use public transport where possible.

The news of this policy received mixed reviews online. Taking to Twitter, user @TonyPayne_RedC claimed that this policy has “got to be discriminatory” with others sharing concerns about the legalities. 

While some Twitter users asked whether this move could be considered discriminatory, Karen Holden, Founder of A City Law firm, told HR Grapevine that, under current UK law, dietary requirements to eat meat aren't a protected characteristic. "So we couldn’t say that a policy to reimburse only vegetarian food is discriminatory. However, a recent employment tribunal case has suggested that ethical veganism should be a characteristic protected from discrimination, so it is not such an extreme idea that the way staff want to eat should be taken into account in the workplace.

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"A dietary requirement is currently just that; unless for example, it is a disability. There are severe dietary allergies that could be acknowledged as disabilities, and employees would then need to be protected from discrimination on that basis," Holden added.

Other users commended the firm’s efforts to be more environmentally friendly and explained that they wanted to implement something similar at their own firm.

Igloo Regeneration isn’t the only firm to have put a stop to non-vegetarian expenditure at work in a bid to reduce its environmental impact.

In 2018, The Guardian reported on WeWork’s environmental movement which meant that meat was no longer served at work events and staff couldn’t be reimbursed for meals that included poultry, pork or red meat.

WeWork’s Co-Founder, Miguel McKelvey, said in an email to staff that the firm was abolishing meat for environmental reasons.

He explained: “New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact, even more than switching to a hybrid car.”

And it seems that initiative's like these may be useful when attracting fresh talent to the business with almost 40% of Millennials choosing to work for an organisation based on their environmental ethics, according to research.

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Comments (5)

  • Steven
    Wed, 19 Feb 2020 12:44pm GMT
    I have to disagree with Mike, as expenses are there to compensate a member of staff that has been taken away from their home comforts on company business, and while some “luxury” items such as alcohol might not be allowed in expenses, to arbitrarily limit what basic food types they may claim for is unacceptable. Some background to this story from the BBC, the company in question had previously "convinced" its workforce to go vegetarian, so laying the groundwork for this new initiative, as there would be very few staff left who might disagree. I also have to wonder how many staff truly went along with the move to vegetarianism because of genuine belief in this lifestyle choice (for that is what it is), or simply to maintain their “cultural fit” in order to keep their jobs.

    In any case it is irrespective, because even if a majority of staff voted for this, why should they get to dictate to the minority. It doesn’t matter if it is one single person who wishes to eat meat, or 100% of the workforce, it is down to individual choice. As Helen points out, this is a PR stunt, a form of corporate virtue signalling, no different than the exclusively vegan menus at so many recent awards ceremonies such as the Oscars. Will this employer insist on strict veganism next? After all, vegans insist that even vegetarianism is “not enough”.
  • Anna
    Tue, 18 Feb 2020 5:47pm GMT
    Encouraging vegetarianism and using public transport is one thing, not paying legitimate business expenses due to the political views of the company is something else. This is getting into very murky waters and as another commenter has indicated, being veggie isn't always more green. Having now set a precedent, what if the company decided the next step was to only pay expenses for vegan food? Sounds to me like it could be a penny pinching exercise by the company where they get to pay less *and* virtue signal at the same time!
  • Helen
    Tue, 18 Feb 2020 3:18pm GMT
    If we talk about the value of inclusion and genuinely valuing differences to attain increased engagement, retention, and a positive impact on profitability and return on equity etc then it is a very dangerous road to travel if our company policies suggest that we do not in fact value each others' differences. Leadership in the modern world is about influencing, not dictating. In my view this approach to expenses is nothing more than a fashion fad and PR stunt and that is a very dangerous thing for HR to get mixed up in.
  • Mike Butler
    Mike Butler
    Tue, 18 Feb 2020 1:40pm GMT
    I guess a company has the right to decide what expenses it will pay. However, if the decision is being made along environmental grounds then vegetarian options are not always as "green" as you might expect. All too much of our vegetables and fruit are grown over seas, including Africa. So when delivery miles are taken into account the vegetarian option is not always as environmentally sound as might be presumed. Locally produced meats could be better. And what about milk, soya etc? Some tricky questions there!
  • Boris
    Tue, 18 Feb 2020 1:03pm GMT
    Oh good grief! Yet again the anti-meat brigade have jumped onto yet another bandwagon. Choosing to not eat meat does not have the same effect on the environment as driving an electrical car, it's simply a personal choice that should be made by the individual, not the people they work for. If my company did this i'd leave, and I guarantee that. While it may not be discriminatory it is extremely "Big Brother" and in my view a bit pathetic. Many vegetarian options are just as bad environmentally as meat, do you think that Quorn grows on trees? The amount of resources that go into growing an avocado or almond are scary, if you buy local meat you are not having to rack up meat miles and can go some safe in the knowledge that you're doing the right thing. It's intensive farming that causes problems, and the same is true of many veggie options. Palm oil is technically under the veggie banner yet it's also responsible for destroying wildlife habitat and causing deforestation. It's a sad day when employers feel that they can bully people into being something we're not.

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