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Disability Discrimination

Disability is one of the nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010. Employees are protected from:

  • direct disability discrimination;
  • indirect disability discrimination;
  • discrimination arising from disability;
  • harassment; and
  • victimisation.

For more information on what these mean, please see types of discrimination.

Legal issues arising from disability can be extremely complex; if you have questions about potential disability discrimination please do call our employment law solicitors.

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Who has a disability?

The question of who is disabled is a complex one. Some conditions, such as blindness, cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis are “deemed” disabilities. Some conditions are excluded such as addiction to alcohol or other substances (however note that conditions that arise from addiction such as depression can be a disability).

The Act states that a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

So, in order to gauge if a person has a disability or not, it is important to ask four questions:

  1. Does the person have a physical or mental impairment?
  2. Does that impairment have an adverse effect on normal day to day activities?
  3. Is the effect substantial?
  4. Is the effect long term?

Check out this definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Reasonable Adjustments

An employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to help disabled employees where:

  • a provision, criterion or practice applied by the employer puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled;
  • a physical feature of the premises put the employee at a substantial disadvantage;
  • where a disabled person would, but for the employer’s provision of an auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled.

Examples of adjustments that could be reasonable are:

  • Making adjustments to premises such as an access ramp;
  • providing information in accessible formats (e.g. Braille or audio tape);
  • allocating certain duties to other people;
  • altering hours or work;
  • providing training.

In reality there are many ways in which an employer could help a disabled employee and an employer must be careful in working with the employee to ensure that any reasonable adjustments are agreed.

For business law advice call 0845 225 2635


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