It is unlawful to discriminate against workers because of a physical or mental disability or fail to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a worker with a disability. Under the Equality Act 2010 a person is classified as disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Day-to-day activities include things such as using a telephone, reading a book or using public transport.
The Equality Act 2010 provides disabled people with protection from discrimination in a range of areas, including in employment and occupation.
This means that employers:
- must not directly discriminate against a person because of their actual or perceived disability, or because they associate with a disabled person
- must not treat a disabled person less favourably for a reason related to his or her impairment, unless that treatment can be justified for example an employer may reject someone who has a severe back problem where the job entails heavy lifting.
- must not have procedures, policy or practices which, although applicable to all workers, disproportionately disadvantage those who share a particular disability, unless these can be justified
- must make reasonable adjustments in the recruitment and employment of disabled people. This can include, for example, adjustments to recruitment and selection procedures, to terms and conditions of employment, to working arrangements and physical changes to the premises or equipment
- must not treat an employee unfairly who has made or supported a complaint about discrimination because of disability.
Disabled employees are also protected from harassment. Harassment is unwanted conduct related to disability which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.
Employers should ensure they have policies in place which are designed to prevent discrimination in:
- recruitment and selection
- determining pay
- training and development
- selection for promotion
- discipline and grievances
- countering bullying and harassment
Questions and answers
Must employers take an employee's disability into account?
Yes. If an employee has a disability that is making it difficult to work, employers should consider what reasonable adjustments they can make in the workplace to help or schedule an interview with the employee to discuss what can be done to support them. This could be as simple as supplying an adequate, ergonomic chair or power-assisted piece of equipment. Reasonable adjustments also include re-deployment to a different type of work if necessary.
What can an employee do if they think they have been discriminated against?
If an employee feels they been discriminated against, they will be able to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal. However, it's best to talk to their employer first to try to sort out the matter informally, in order to minimise the negative effects on all parties involved.
Through the Acas Helpline (08457 47 47 47) you can get advice on specific problems, and explore alternatives to an Employment Tribunal claim, such as mediation or Pre-Claim Conciliation, where appropriate.
What is meant by discrimination by association?
Discrimination by association is where an employee may be discriminated against because of their association with another person. An example of this could be where an employer discriminates against the employee because a close relative has a disability.
What is third party harassment?
The Equality Act makes an employer potentially liable for harassment of employees by people who are not employees such as customers or clients. Employers will only be liable when harassment has occurred on at least two previous occasions, and are aware that it has taken place, and have not taken reasonable steps to prevent it from happening again.
Did you know?
Acas run practical training courses to equip managers, supervisors and HR professionals with the necessary skills to deal with employment relations issues and to create more productive workplace environments.
Click to view related Acas training and course dates in your area for: