Disability discrimination at work

Reporting disability discrimination at work

If you've experienced or witnessed disability discrimination or harassment at work you can make a complaint to your employer.

Your employer should:

  • take your complaint very seriously
  • handle it fairly and sensitively

It's a good idea to make a note of what's happened. This should include dates, times and names, including any witnesses. Making a note can be especially helpful if you find talking about the experience particularly distressing.

It's best to make a complaint as soon as possible. But if you make a complaint a long time after an incident took place, your employer should still take it seriously.

If you've experienced it yourself

Talk with your employer or someone senior at work as soon as possible to try and resolve the problem.

If this does not resolve the issue, or does not seem appropriate in the circumstances, you can raise a formal grievance.

Alternatively, your employer may have their own specific bullying and harassment policy for handling disability discrimination and harassment complaints. If so, you should follow that policy and procedure to make your complaint.

If the problem is not resolved

If you made a formal complaint of disability discrimination or harassment and this did not resolve the problem, you can consider making a claim to an employment tribunal. 

If you want to do this, first you must tell Acas you intend to make an employment tribunal claim. You need to do this within 3 months of the incident.

When you contact Acas, you will have the chance to try to resolve your case through Acas before formally submitting a claim to an employment tribunal.

If you take more than 3 months to tell Acas, your complaint may still be considered at an employment tribunal if the tribunal decides that both these things apply:

  • there's a good reason for you taking more than 3 months
  • it's fair to the employer to allow your case to go ahead

To make a claim to an employment tribunal, there is no requirement to have worked for an employer for a set amount of time.

If you witnessed it happening to someone else

If you see someone at work being discriminated against or harassed, you could step in and try to stop it happening, if you feel it's safe to do so.

After it's happened, you should talk to the person who's experienced the discrimination or harassment to see if they want your support.

You might also want to talk to someone else to get advice and support before deciding whether to report it – for example someone at work who's been trained to advise people who are considering making this kind of complaint.

You might decide to:

  • report what you've seen or heard
  • make a harassment complaint yourself if what you've witnessed has violated your dignity or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive working environment 

If you decide to report it

Talk with your employer or someone senior at work as soon as possible to try and resolve the problem.

If this does not resolve the issue, you can raise a formal grievance. This is if you're making a complaint yourself because what you've seen or heard has violated your dignity or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive working environment.

Alternatively, if your employer has their own specific bullying and harassment policy for handling disability discrimination and harassment complaints, you should follow that policy and procedure to make your complaint.

Supporting someone else's complaint

Ways you could support someone else's complaint include things like:

  • comforting or supporting someone who's experienced disability discrimination or harassment
  • making a statement, which may or may not mean you appear as a witness at a hearing

If you're making a witness statement, you can ask for it to be anonymous. But keeping your identity secret cannot be guaranteed. For example, if the case goes to an employment tribunal, you might be asked to give evidence in person.

Discrimination law protects you from being victimised because you've supported someone else's complaint. Find out more about types of disability discrimination, including victimisation.

Disability hate crime

Harassment at work can sometimes be a crime, for example if you're the victim of:

  • physical or verbal abuse
  • threats of physical violence
  • online abuse
  • damage to your property

Any criminal offence can be a disability hate crime if you were targeted because you're disabled. You can also be the victim of a disability hate crime if someone thinks you're disabled, or you have a connection with someone who's disabled.

Deciding whether to report it to the police

If you tell your employer, they should talk to you about whether you want to report it to the police, and support you if you choose to report it.

Your employer should not put any pressure on you to make any particular decision. If you do not want to tell the police, you do not have to.

In most cases, your employer should go along with your decision. But your employer might decide they have to tell the police in some circumstances. This might include if you or they think there's likely to be:

  • an ongoing risk to your safety or the safety of others
  • an increased risk to your safety because you're a vulnerable person

If your employer is going to report it to the police, they should talk with you about it before telling them, and let you know when they've told them.

Find out more about how your employer should deal with hate crime

Get help and support

Help and support is available for anyone affected by disability discrimination.

Support through your work

Depending on what's available at your work, this might include: 

  • counselling or mental health support through an employee assistance programme (EAP)
  • someone who's been trained to advise people who are considering making a discrimination or harassment complaint
  • staff support networks – for example a disability network

Other specialist support

To help you understand your rights and options, you can:

If you're struggling to cope and need someone to talk to, you can contact:

For disability hate crime, get specialist help and support from:

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