Under the Equality Act 2010, it's against the law for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of a disability.
What Conditions Are Classed as Disabilities?
Any physical or mental impairment which has a substantial, long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out daily activities can be classed as a disability. For example, if it takes you significantly longer to complete everyday tasks because of your condition, then this is likely to be recognised as a disability.
This means that there are any number of conditions that can fall under the category of disability, providing they have a substantial, long-term effect on the life of the sufferer. As many conditions affect different individuals in different ways, it's not possible to provide a list of what does and doesn't fall into this category.
However, under the Equality Act 2010, there are certain conditions which are automatically classified as a disability. These include:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Severe disfigurement (not including tattoos or piercings)
- Blindness, partial blindness or severe sight impairment.
Conditions which are not defined as a disability include things such as addiction to alcohol or non-prescribed drugs. However, if these conditions lead on to a long-term illness which significantly impacts on an individual's life, then the resulting condition may become classed as a disability at this point.
What Can't Employers Do?
It's against the law for employers to discriminate against an employee because of their disability in any of the following areas:
- Recruitment processes, including application forms, interview arrangements, aptitude or proficiency tests and job offers
- Terms of employment, such as pay
- Opportunities at work, such as promotions, transfers or training
- Redundancy or dismissal
- Disciplinary and grievance procedures.
What Should Employers Do?
Employers have a duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' so that a disabled employee is not at a disadvantage in the workplace. Employers are not required to change the nature of the job role, just to make reasonable adjustments so that a disabled employee can continue to carry out their role.
Which reasonable adjustments should be made will vary depending on the nature of the condition, the individual's circumstances and the nature of the work being carried out. However, as an example, this could include things such as offering flexible hours, changing shift patterns or offering more time off for appointments. It could also include alterations made to the work environment or the provision of specialist equipment or software.
ACAS recommends that employers should gain an understanding of an employee's condition so that they can assess how it's likely to affect them and what adjustments should be made.
While you are not legally required to disclose your condition to your employer, it may be sensible to do so, otherwise your employer will not be able to make any adjustments for you. You can ask your employer to keep this confidential if you do not want your colleagues to know about your condition.
Get Legal Advice and Support
If you have a disability that you have disclosed to your employer, and you feel that your disability rights have been violated, then it's important to take steps to address this, and not to delay in doing so.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against on the basis of your disability, you may be able to make a claim against your employer in the Employment Tribunal.
If your employer is failing to make reasonable adjustments for you, then you may initially want to have a conversation with them to see if the issue can be resolved. If the matter is more serious or you find that you're unable to resolve the situation with your employer directly, then you can seek legal advice from an Employment Solicitor to establish what steps to take next.