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Disability discrimination - are you aware of your rights as an employee?

View profile for Rebecca Topping
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Disability discrimination in universities

A recent article and television programme, (the Million Pound Payout), has purported to have revealed that the Department of Work and Pensions, (DWP), has lost more employment tribunal cases of disability discrimination compared to any other employer in Britain since 2016. A statistic quoted within the article has stated that the DWP lost 17 out of 134 claims of discrimination against its own disabled works from 2016 – 2019.

The article/television programme highlights the importance of employer’s obligations to their employees.

If you have a disability and you have made your employer aware of your condition, they are under a duty to not discriminate against you under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010.

You will have potentially been discriminated against if you have suffered unfavourable treatment and have been put to a detriment, as a result of a protected characteristic, such as a disability. There are a number of protected characteristics, as defined by the Equality Act 2010. These include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Gender reassignment
  • Religious beliefs
  • Disability

Section 6 of the Equality Act defines the ‘legal test’ for a condition being classified as a disability for the purpose of discrimination claims. In this context, a condition must be a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on an individual’s ability to complete normal day to day activities.

If you suffer from a disability which causes you to be vulnerable, for example, more so than someone who does not suffer from a disability, you may require the provision of a ‘reasonable adjustment’ to be made for you, to enable you to fully perform the duties required of you from your employer. This could include providing you with ergonomic office equipment, more time to complete certain tasks, or specialist software to assist you with the performance of your duties, dependent upon the nature of your condition.

If any physical feature of your workplace causes a substantial disadvantage to you as a result of your disability then the employer is under a statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments to prevent it, (i.e. altering premises to a reasonable extent or offering assistance to help you to perform your duties as an employee). An employer is under a duty when they are aware, or should be aware, that you are suffering from a disability and are likely to suffer a disadvantage because of it.

An employer may have a defence if ithey can objectively justify that the discrimination is a proportionate (i.e. there is no reasonable alternative) way of achieving a legitimate aim (e.g. genuine health and safety reasons). In order to utilise this defence, an employer has to show clear evidence that it had conducted a balancing exercise between its business needs and the discriminatory effect and had given consideration to alternatives that might achieve the same result without being disadvantageous to the employee.

We have a wealth of experience in assisting individuals who have been discriminated against by their employer due to the above listed protected characteristics. We are specialists in this area and have assisted a significant number of individuals with obtaining positive outcomes. We assist individuals on a daily basis on a variety of funding  bases, including legal help funding, (which is a branch of legal aid funding), and privately funded arrangements.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against as a result of a protected characteristic, such as your disability or disabilities, you may be able to bring a claim for discrimination under the terms of the Equality Act 2010. Please contact our specialist discrimination team for further advice on 01616 966 229