14th September 2013
It is believed there are over 10 million people in the UK with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability. Around 1 in 7 working age adults are disabled.
The employment-rate gap between disabled and non-disabled people decreased from around 36% in 2002 to around 29% in 2010. To put this into context, the 2010 statistics show that 48% of disabled people were employed compared to a non-disabled rate of 78%.
Disability Discrimination Legislation
The law relating to disability discrimination is governed by the Equality Act 2010. The Act, which repealed the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, came into force on 1 October 2010. It provides clarity on the rights of individuals and helps to ensure equality of opportunity in the workplace.
Disabled employees and potential employees are protected from discrimination by employers in the following areas:
• During the recruitment and selection process;
• In relation to their terms of employment;
• In relation to promotion, transfer, training or any other benefit offered; and
• In relation to dismissal or being subjected to any other detriment.
Making Reasonable Adjustments
Equality law recognises that bringing about equality for disabled people may mean changing the way in which employment is structured, for example the removal of physical barriers and/or providing extra support for the disabled worker. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where appropriate. This duty aims to ensure that, as far as is reasonable, a disabled worker has the same access to recruitment and employment opportunities as a non-disabled person. Employers need only take proportionate action to remove barriers for disabled people.
A failure to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments will constitute discrimination under the Equality Act. However, an employer will not be liable where it did not know, or could not reasonably be expected to know, that an employee or job applicant has a disability.
Many factors will be involved in deciding whether adjustments should be made and these will depend on the circumstances of each case. The Government runs a scheme called Access to Work, which can often provide grants towards the cost of equipment. Most disabled people require very little in the way of adjustments, so costs are often not an issue. Employers should bear in mind that the cost of putting an adjustment in place is likely to be significantly lower than the cost and resources required for an employment tribunal claim should an individual allege they have been discriminated against.
What is Associative Disability Discrimination?
In broad terms, associative disability discrimination occurs when a person is discriminated against because of their association with another person who is disabled.
A couple of recent employment tribunal cases have considered this area of discrimination. In Price v Action-Tec Services Ltd t/a Associated Telecom Solutions ET/1304312/2011, the employee successfully argued that she had been discriminated against because she required time off work due to her husband's serious illness. The dismissal of an employee because it is assumed that he/she will become unreliable because of caring responsibilities for a disabled relative is associative disability discrimination.
In a separate tribunal case however, Graham v Simpson Print Ltd ET/2504738/2012, an employee was unsuccessful in his attempt to argue that he had been forced to resign his employment as a result of his father being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Further Advice and Support
If you require further advice and support on this topic, our HR Advice Line will be happy to assist. Please contact an Advisor on 0845 073 0240.
XpertHR – Various resources relating to associative disability discrimination
Personnel Today news article - Association and Perception under the Equality Act 2010
ACAS guide to the Equality Act (“Acas Quick Start Guide for Employers”) - available at http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/n/8/Equality_Act_2010_guide_for_employers-accessible-version-Nov-2011.pdf
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