Can you justify disability discrimination?

Nick Singer

17 July 2018

Are there occasions when treating someone unlawful because of their disability lawful in an employment tribunal?

The Equality Act 2010 says if someone has a good enough reason for treating their employee unfairly, they may be able to justify discriminating this in an employment tribunal.

When can someone justify discrimination?

The law which says employers should not discriminate against their employees because of their disability and this is set out in the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful.

But sometimes employers are allowed to discriminate against their employees if they have a good enough reason for doing so. They would need to be able to prove this in court, if necessary. This is known in legal terms as objective justification. If discrimination is justified, it doesn’t count as unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act.

Discrimination can only be justified in certain situations. These are:
• indirect discrimination
• discrimination because of something connected to your disability, this is called discrimination arising from a disability
• direct age discrimination.

What’s a good enough reason?

The Equality Act says discrimination can be justified if the person who's discriminating against you can show it’s a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. If necessary, it's the courts which will decide if discrimination can be justified.

This is the question we put to expert barrister Nick Singer.

Video Transcript

Hello, my name's Mark Ferron MD of Castle Associates and if you'd like to know whether disability discrimination can be justified in an employment tribunal then please watch this short video an expert barrister Nick Singer will explain.

It can, it depends on the area and it depends on the case, broadly speaking if you are basically doing something nasty to someone because they're disabled, you don't like disabled people you can't justify it. If it is more of a case of balancing the needs of a business against the needs of the disabled person and that is a theme that runs through it the entire area of disability discrimination the law does provide the employer a chance to justify their behaviour even if it is discriminatory.

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