Disability discrimination

Disability is defined under the Equality Act as someone who has

“a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.”

This is very much a legal definition, and ultimately it will be up to an employment tribunal to decide whether a worker or employee is disabled within the meaning of the Act.

The definition can be broken down into sections:

  • ‘substantial’ is more than minor or trivial, e.g. it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed.
  • ‘long-term’ means 12 months or more, e.g. a condition has lasted 12 months or more, or is likely to do so.
  • ‘ability to do day to day activities’ does not necessarily mean your ability to perform your job, but could include (but are certainly not limited to) activities such as shopping, getting dressed, walking any distance, concentrating on a TV programme, reading a newspaper or cooking.

There are also certain conditions which are automatically deemed to meet the disability definition under the Equality Act 2010 from the day you’re diagnosed. These conditions are HIV infection, cancer or multiple sclerosis.

If you have a disability your employer must not discriminate against you because you have the disability.

Your employer may also need to consider making reasonable adjustments either to your working conditions or the workplace in order to enable you to perform your role. Reasonable adjustments could include allowing you to have a phased return to work after a period of absence, or maybe making adaptions to your workstation.

If you feel your employer is placing you at a detriment or treating you differently due to a disability, our specialist employment team will be able to advise you of your rights. Claims for discrimination must be instigated within 3 months less one day of the acts or act complained of.

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