Disability at Work and the Equality Act

Employment opportunities for disabled people have changed dramatically over the past few years, with a host of legal changes being introduced to help improve things. Employers have also started to become far more aware of the need to recruit the best possible candidates, regardless of any disabilities they may suffer from.

It’s now widely recognised that disabled people have a valuable role to play in the UK workforce, whether on a full time, part time or temporary basis.

The legislation that protects and helps those with a physical or mental disabilities is The Equality Act 2010

The act actually makes it illegal for you to be discriminated against because of anything related to your disability. Employers are also required to make necessary adjudgements to allow for your disability.

What is Classed as a Disability?

The original Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) (1996) – which is now superseded by the Equality Act, lays down a specific definition of ‘disabled person’, for the purposes of the law:

“a physical or mental impairment that has substantial long term adverse effects on normal day-to-day activities.”

Although the full definition is lengthy, it includes most physical and mental disabilities that have a serious impact on your ability to complete daily tasks. The impairment must also last, or be expected to last, for more than a year.

To be classed as a disability the impairment must affect one of the following areas:

  • Mobility
  • Manual dexterity
  • Physical co-ordination
  • Continence
  • The Ability to lift, carry or otherwise move everyday objects
  • Speech, hearing or eyesight
  • Memory or the ability to concentrate, learn or understand
  • Perception of the risk of physical danger.

The full definition can be found at the website of the Department of Work and Pensions (www.dwp.gov.uk)

Getting a Job

The laws are designed to help make the jobs market a fairer place for Disabled People, by eliminating discrimination and encouraging employers to think beyond the traditional stereotypes.

Employers now have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to working practices or the Working Environment to ensure that disabled people aren’t put at a disadvantage.

For example, this could mean improving access into your place of work or providing specialist equipment to aid disabled people at work.

The duty to make these sorts of changes even applies to the recruitment process, so disabled people aren’t put at a disadvantage during an interview.

Disability Discrimination

This is now a serious offence which can land unscrupulous employers at an Employment Tribunal.

It is illegal to discriminate against disabled people in any part of working life including decisions around dismissal or redundancy. This also includes:

  • Promotion
  • Training
  • Salary and benefits
  • Victimisation or harassment.

If you think you have been discriminated against an employment tribunal application should always be a last resort. Think about all your options before taking any action – a meeting with a manager or lodging a formal complaint may help resolve the matter.

However, if you do decide to take further action, any tribunal claim must be made no later than three months after the discrimination took place.

Getting Help

If you are currently looking for work the local Job Centre can help put you in touch with specialist advisors.

Disability Employment Advisors can provide information and guidance on all types of workplace issues as well as your legal rights.

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) is an independent body created to stop discrimination and promote equality of opportunity for disabled people. The DRC has a wealth of information on employment issues and can offer practical advice, guidance and support.

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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