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Disability Discrimination

Most disabled people can work alongside their non-disabled colleagues without any or very little special assistance. Where reasonable adjustments to working practices and environments are required they are often straightforward and inexpensive to implement. The Equality Act 2010  ensures that employers do not discriminate against employees on the basis of disability. Employers must not discriminate against a disabled person when recruiting, whilst they are employed or if they are following redundancy or dismissal procedures.

Qualifications for bringing a disability discrimination claim

  • To bring a claim of disability discrimination, you need to demonstrate that you are or were an employee, or were applying for a job as an employee.
  • Employee is defined more widely than is the case for unfair dismissal, namely somebody who works "under a contract of service or of apprenticeship or a contract personally to execute any work or labour". This definition therefore includes self-employed workers who are engaged personally to carry out a job, in addition to conventional employees.
  • There is no qualifying period of employment required to bring a claim.
  • Employees or workers who have a medical condition which has prevailed (or is likely to prevail) for twelve months or more, and which has a substantial effect on their ability to carry out day to day activities, may qualify for protection under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Conditions that have been recognised as impairments for the purposes of the Equality Act are depression, deafness, blindness, cancer, asthma, autism, diabetes, dyslexia, ME, panic disorder and rheumatoid arthritis, amongst others.
  • The scope of the Equality Act is wide and you do not need to be registered as disabled to be afforded protection.
  • It is necessary for an employee to pursue a grievance with their employer prior to presenting a claim to an Employment Tribunal. By far the most important ramification of failing to lodge a grievance is that employees are prevented from bringing a discrimination claim. There is a minimum twenty-eight day period after lodging the grievance before an employee can initiate a claim. The second consequence of an employee's failure to comply with this requirement is a reduction in compensation following a successful Tribunal claim. The reduction is of any amount considered just and equitable by a Tribunal between zero and 25%.
If you have a disability, it is unlawful for your employer to discriminate against you in the following ways:
  • Directly discriminating against you by subjecting you to less favourable treatment because of your disability, without objective justification;
  • Victimising you by treating you less favourably because you have brought proceedings in the past in relation to a discrimination claim, or provided evidence or information in connection with such a claim, or alleged that the employer (or a third party) has done an act which would amount to a breach of discrimination legislation.
  • The Regulations also provide for 'vicarious liability' provisions, making an employer responsible for anything done by a person in the course of his/her employment and for ensuring that if a person knowingly aids another person to do an unlawful act they are both treated as doing that act.
  • Failing to make 'reasonable adjustments' to facilitate you to do your job. Reasonable adjustments may include reducing or varying your working hours, duties and responsibilities, offering re-deployment or installing wheelchair access.
Reasonable Adjustments can include:
  • adjusting equipment, eg installing speech browser software onto a computer
  • providing a reader or interpreter, eg sign language interpreter for meetings
  • providing supervision, eg a mentor or support worker
  • modifying equipment, eg a specifically designed chair
  • modifying reference manuals, eg providing oral instructions as an alternative to written instructions
  • altering working hours to give a later or early start or longer lunch break
  • allocating duties to another member of staff
  • transferring a disabled member of staff to fill an existing vacancy, eg a sales representative who has to give up driving could be transferred to an office-based vacancy
  • assigning a different place of work, eg allowing home working during a period of rehabilitation
  • allowing time off for rehabilitation or medical treatment
  • adjusting premises, eg the direction a door opens to allow for a wheelchair user.

Remedies

  • If an employee or worker has been the victim of unlawful discrimination, an Employment Tribunal has the power to order the payment of compensation. The award normally comprises two elements: injury to feelings and loss of earnings. In addition, Tribunals have jurisdiction to award damages for personal injury.
  • In addition to ordering compensation, Tribunals are able to make an order declaring the rights of the affected individual and make a recommendation that the employer takes action, within a specified period.
If you think you have been subject to discrimination on the basis of a disability, please phone Ashley Hunt, Vaishali Thakerar or Carrie-Ann Randall on 0116 212 1000 or complete the form on the right. Lawson-West offer free initial consultations so it won't cost you a penny to find out if you have a claim. We also run a number of free walk-in advice clinics at our offices in Leicester, Wigston & Market Harborough.
Lawson-West will make sure that your disability discrimination claim is funded on the most appropriate basis and that will often be on a No Win No Fee basis. This means that Lawson-West have a vested interest in ensuring your employment claim is successful.