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disability discrimination at work frequently asked questions

Direct disability discrimination is where a disabled employee may be treated less favourably because of their disability, compared to someone without a disability in the same scenario.
Indirect disability discrimination is where a workplace may have a provision, criterion or practice, which is applied equally to a group of employees, but has (or will have) the effect of putting those who have a disability at a particular disadvantage, when compared to others in the group and the employer is unable to justify it.
The Equality Act 2010 also protects an employee from what the law terms ‘discrimination arising from disability’. This is where someone is treated unfavourably; not because of the disability itself, but because of something linked to their disability. Examples of something connected with a disability might include:
  • Absence from work because of an illness
  • Problems with movement
  • Difficulties with reading, writing, talking, listening or understanding
Sometimes, there may be situations where disability discrimination can be justified. For example, a workplace may exclude a disabled employee for health and safety reasons, which would suggest they are putting that person’s safety first rather than simply discriminating against them.
This is one of the most common types of disability discrimination. A ‘reasonable adjustment’ is a change or adaptation to the working environment, which has the effect of removing or minimising the impact of the individual’s disability in the workplace. Every employer is legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace, to allow any disabled employees to carry out their roles, without being at a disadvantage. For example, you may require a standing desk to enable comfortable working with a spinal impairment. Or, you may be a wheelchair user whose employer should install ramps if your place of work doesn’t already have them.
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