Disability discrimination is when someone puts you at a disadvantage because of your condition or impairment. This could include:

  • your employer not providing reasonable adjustments that would help you to do your job

  • an employer withdrawing a job offer when they learn of your condition

  • your employer dismissing you due to disability-related absences from work

  • workplace bullying because you are disabled

The Equality Act 2010 provides protection against discrimination which relates to certain listed characteristics which people may possess in the workplace. Disability is one of these protected characteristics. The others are age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Definition of Disability

Disability is any physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This gives rise to a number of questions:

  • Does the person have an impairment which is either mental or physical?

  • Does the impairment affect the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities (focusing on what they cannot do or can only do with difficulty), and does it have an adverse effect?

  • Is the adverse effect substantial (i.e. more than trivial)?

  • Is the adverse effect long-term? An impairment will be regarded as “long-term” if it has already lasted, or is likely to last, at least 12 months.

Types of disability discrimination

Discrimination is when someone puts you at a disadvantage because of your condition. There are different types of disability discrimination which include:

  • Direct discrimination – When a disabled person is treated less favourably because of their impairment or condition. For example, if you do not get a place on a training course because your employer assumes it would be difficult for you to get there.

  • Indirect discrimination – When a workplace process or rule inadvertently disadvantages a disabled person. For example, an employer insisting that workers with a particular job function must work on the fifth floor in a building that has no lift, which would make it difficult or impossible for those whose disability affects their ability to climb stairs to do that job.

  • Discrimination arising from disability – This is where a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something arising from, or in consequence of, their disability, such as the need to take a period of disability-related absence, rather than because of the disability itself.

  • Harassment – When a colleague makes offensive remarks about disability.

  • Failure to make reasonable adjustments – There is no set definition of what is ‘reasonable’, it depends on the job and the employer. But if something is easy and inexpensive to do, and your employer has not done it, this could be disability discrimination.

  • Victimisation – Individuals who speak up to assert their rights under the Equality Act 2010 run the potential risk that they will be treated badly in retaliation. An example of victimisation is where a worker suggests to their manager that they were not promoted because of their disability and the manager responds by dismissing them.

How discrimination arises

You could be subjected to discrimination at any stage during the relationship with your employer.  For example:

  • Applying for a job – If you are not selected for interview because of your condition.

  • Interviews – If you do not receive adjustments at a job interview after you ask for them, this could be discrimination. Your interviewer is not allowed to ask you about your condition or how it affects you, except in very limited circumstances. These include discussing adjustments you may need to perform as well as others in the recruitment process, or your ability to do the core aspects of the job.

  • At work – If your employer does not make reasonable adjustments to enable you to do your job, it could be discrimination. Reasonable adjustments can include flexible working and different duties.

  • Promotions – If you do not get a promotion or a pay rise because you are disabled, this may be discrimination.

  • Dismissal – It may be discrimination if you are dismissed due to disability-related absence(s) from work

  • After employment ends – It may be discrimination if you are victimised or harassed after employment has ended.

Options if you face discrimination

If you face discrimination at work, your options include:

  • Trying to resolve the situation informally by raising the issue with your line manager if the situation allows it. If the matter relates to discrimination by the line manager, you should contact another line manager or someone responsible for HR

  • Raise a grievance – If the situation cannot be resolved informally, you should raise a formal grievance setting out your complaints in writing. Ask for a copy of the employer’s grievance procedure which will set out the process your employer should follow when investigating your grievance and the likely timescales

  • Seek independent legal advice – Contact a qualified employment solicitor for advice on your options and any potential employment law claims you may have. It is important to obtain advice at an early stage.  If you are a member of a trade union, you might wish to contact a union representative for advice to assist you or act as a mediator.

  • Contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) who are a government funded organisation which provides free, impartial advice on all workplace issues.

  • Make a claim for disability discrimination at the Employment Tribunal. There are strict time limits to bring claims so it is important to take legal advice at an early stage.

Our employment law experts at Farleys are here to help you with any disability discrimination issues you have with your employer. We can discuss your circumstances in confidence and advise on your legal standpoint. Call the team today on 0845 287 0939, contact us by email, or use the online chat below.