Disability

by Kate Russell

Introduction

It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a disabled person in relation to his employment. Before 1995, disabled employees had to be registered disabled by a doctor and employers with 20 or more staff were supposed to have a disabled quota of three per cent of their workforce. Few employers complied, because the code was purely voluntary. It was rarely enforced and provided little protection for disabled people.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) came into force in 1995, increasing rights for disabled people in the fields of employment, education, transport, the provision of goods, facilities, services, premises and the exercise of public functions. This topic concentrates on protection in employment. Only those people who are defined as disabled in accordance with the act will be entitled to the protection that the act provides.

The Equality Act 2010 has revised the definition of disability, making it slightly easier for a person to demonstrate that he has a disability. He will be considered to be disabled within the meaning of the legislation if

  • He has a physical or mental impairment
  • The impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to perform normal day-to-day activities.

For the purposes of the Act, these words have the following meanings:

  • ‘Substantial’ means more than minor or trivial
  • ‘Long-term’ means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least twelve months (there are special rules covering recurring or fluctuating conditions)
  • ‘Normal day-to-day activities’ include everyday things like eating, washing, walking and going shopping.

People who have had a disability in the past that meets this definition are also protected by the act.

Progressive conditions considered to be a disability

There are additional provisions relating to people with progressive conditions. People with HIV, cancer or multiple sclerosis are protected by the act from the point of diagnosis. People with some visual impairments are automatically deemed to be disabled.

Some conditions, such as a tendency to set fires or addictions to non–prescribed substances, are specifically excluded from being covered by the disability definition.

It is unlawful to treat a person with a disability less favourably unless it can be justified.

In addition to this, employers have to consider making reasonable adjustments if their employment arrangements place disabled people at a substantial disadvantage compared with non-disabled people.