Increase in Disability Discrimination Claims at Tribunals
According to Ministry of Justice Figures, there were 6,550 disability discrimination claims at employment tribunals last year. This is a 37% increase on the year before, and represents a growth rate which is eight times faster than the increase in total claims over the same period.
These figures accord with the experience of the employment team at Lawson-West. We have in recent months found ourselves spending an ever-increasing amount of time on helping our clients bring disability discrimination claims.
Are people discriminating more?
This is a tricky question to answer definitively based either on the figures or our own experience. It certainly might seem that way, however there may be more to the increase in claims than it first seems.
Firstly, tribunal fees were abolished in 2017, which has caused an increase in employment-related claims across the board. However, this does not itself explain why disability discrimination claims have increased so dramatically. Disability discrimination claims aren’t necessarily more expensive than any other, so what else might be going on?
In our experience, a great deal of disability discrimination claims are beginning to centre around conditions that used to, and unfortunately to a lesser extent still do, carry a stigma. In the past few years, charities such as Mind have been shining a light on mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, with which people have been suffering silently because they felt ashamed or embarrassed to bring them up. Thanks to this increased awareness, a lot of people have sought help and assistance from GPs and other medical professionals to be diagnosed and treated.
Now, whereas previously people might not even have been aware that they had a medical condition, they are more willing to assert their right not to be disadvantaged because of their medical condition.
Is the increase in Disability Discrimination claims due to greater awareness?
Not quite. As businesses are facing down the pressures of Brexit, increased regulatory oversight, and turbulent economic conditions, much of the pressures are passed down to its workers. As work-related stress increases, so do absences. As absences become more frequent, employers might find themselves entitled to implement disciplinary procedures. If the employee’s absence is caused by a condition that could qualify as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, disciplinary action based on the absences could be an act of discrimination.
Indeed, according to Health and Safety Executive figures, there were 26.8 million days lost through work-related ill health in 2017-18. Among those who took days off, the longest absences were of those suffering stress, depression and anxiety (26 days).
As to what has caused the increased the sharp rise in disability discrimination claims, as with most situations where you have to choose between one cause or another, it is most likely a combination of both greater awareness and increased pressures placed on workers which exacerbate their underlying conditions.
How do I know if I have a disability?
It is not often obvious that somebody has a disability, and many people might have one and not even know themselves.
According to the Equality Act 2010, a person will have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment which substantially adversely affects their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. These can range from getting dressed in the morning to socialising with friends. The impairment also needs to have lasted for longer than 12 months or, if not, be likely to last longer than 12 months.
If you believe you have a disability and are being discriminated against, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Lawson-West’s employment team, who will be happy to help you find a resolution that suits you.
Legal support from Lawson-West Solicitors
If you require any advice or support in relation to any of the issues covered in this article, contact us.
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This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.View all