The law is ever changing and being updated and for employers knowing the legislation that covers any type of discrimination is crucial.
The Equality Act 2010 (1) was introduced on 1 October 2010. It brought together many separate pieces of legislation into a single Act.
It was hailed as a landmark move to harmonise discrimination legislation and to protect the rights of individuals and strengthen the law to support progress on equality.
The Equality Act merges what were once nine pieces of main legislation, including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA)(2)
It is not unusual to still hear people refer to the DDA when it comes to dealing with matters of disability discrimination in the workplace. The Equality Act repealed and replaced the DDA in England, Scotland and Wales, but it still applies in Northern Ireland.
The focus here is to look the Equality Act in relation to disability and what it means for employers and employees.
Employees with a disability share the same general employment rights as other jobseekers and workers.
It is unlawful for employers to subject job applicants and employees with disabilities to any type of discrimination. The law is all encompassing and covers all aspects of employment relationship.
The Act defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on an individual’s ability to do normal daily activities (3) ‘substantial’ is more than minor or trivial, eg it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed
The Equality Act protects disabled employees from discrimination in the workplace.
ACAS state that are four main types of disability discrimination (4):
Is when someone is treated differently and not as well as other people because of disability. For example, an employer does not employ a disabled person just because it does not want disabled people in its workforce.
Can occur where a workplace rule, practice or procedure is applied to all employees, but disadvantages those who are disabled. A disabled employee or job applicant claiming indirect discrimination must show how they have been personally disadvantaged, as well as how the discrimination has or would disadvantage other disabled employees or job candidates.
When unwanted conduct related to a person's disability causes a distressing, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.
Treating someone unfairly because they have made or supported a complaint about disability discrimination.
While the above details the main types of discrimination there are two other forms of disability discrimination covered by the law.
This includes discrimination arising from disability where someone is treated ‘unfavourably’ because of something linked to their disability, but not because of the disability itself.
And a failure to make 'reasonable adjustments' (5) This is one of the most common types of discrimination. It occurs when an employer fails to ensure its workplace or practices do not disadvantage an individual with a disability.
Falling foul of the law that covers disability discrimination can have serious repercussions for any organisation. There is no cap on the compensation that can be awarded to the employee or ex-employee in the event of a successful claim that includes disability discrimination
A former News of the World sports journalist was awarded £792,736 in compensation after a tribunal found that he was unfairly sacked and discriminated against on the grounds of disability (6). It was at that time, in 2009, a record payout for such a claim.
Employers should have clear and established rules and policies in place to prevent disability discrimination. Organisations should also ensure managers, supervisors and HR professionals have the necessary skills to deal with all employment relations issues including employee rights, disability rights and definitions used within the law including the Equality Act.
1.Equality Act 2010 [Internet] [cited 7th January 2019] available from: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/equality-act-2010/what-equality-act
2.Disability discrimination act [Internet] [Cited 7th January 2019] available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/50/contents
3.Definition of disability [internet][cited 7th January 2019] available from: https://www.gov.uk/definition-of-disability-under-equality-act-2010
5.Failure to make reasonable adjustments – Citizens Advice [Internet][Cited 7th January 2019] available from: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/discrimination-at-work/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination/the-employer-s-duty-to-make-reasonable-adjustments/
6.News of the World sports journalist was awarded £792,736 [Internet] Press Gazette [Cited 7th January 2019] available from: https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/former-now-sports-reporter-in-792k-tribunal-payout/
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