If you have a disability, it’s illegal for you to be discriminated against in the workplace.
We encourage employees who have or who are facing disability discrimination to get in touch with our team as soon as possible.
What is disability discrimination?
Under the Equality Act 2010, a person is disabled 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” (GOV.UK).
There are four main types of discrimination:
- Direct discrimination
- Indirect discrimination
There are also two additional types of discrimination, which apply solely to disability discrimination:
- Discrimination arising from disability
- Failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’
Direct disability discrimination
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
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.
Discrimination arising from disability
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.
Failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’
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.
If an employer fails to do this for you, you could be eligible to claim for disability discrimination.
Below are some further examples of disability discrimination in employment:
- Harassment – if an employer/other employees were to make fun of a person’s disability. This can include bullying, nicknames, threats, intrusive or inappropriate questions, excluding someone or insults. It can be verbal, written or physical. Unwanted jokes and/or gossip which the employee finds offensive can be harassment and to say they were “banter” is no defence.
- By association – if an employer or employee discriminates against someone simply because they know someone disabled, or have a disabled spouse/partner or child.
- Victimisation – this is when an employee may suffer what the law terms a “detriment”, because they engaged in any of the following:
- Made an allegation of discrimination
- Supported a complaint about discrimination
- Gave evidence to support a discrimination claim
- Raised a grievance concerning equality or discrimination
- Did anything else for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.
Making a disability discrimination claim
If you have experienced disability discrimination in the workplace or during the recruitment process, then we recommend you act quickly. The law states that an employee only has three months, less one day, from the date of the discriminatory act to start a complaint at an employment tribunal.
In order to bring a tribunal claim, we recommend you contact our disability discrimination solicitors in the first instance. Any employee who wishes to bring a claim for disability discrimination at work needs to submit details of their claim to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), so that they can establish whether the employer will agree to ‘early conciliation’. Depending on your circumstances, we may be able to help you with this.
If you have been discriminated against due to your disability, our employment team may be able to help. You can call us free on 0808 164 0808 or request a call back, and one of our experts will call you.
DISCLAIMER: You usually have three months less one day from the date of discriminatory act to initiate Early Conciliation with ACAS, meaning you should act fast. However, we recommend you speak to one of our employment lawyers in the first instance. If you feel you have a potential employment claim please act quickly and contact us today.