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What legal responsibilities does an employer have to an employee who suffers with dementia?

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Employment law update 2018: employment tribunal

Dementia affects a large section of the population and its prevalence is growing. Globally around 50 million people are currently living with dementia, and the number of cases is forecast to reach 130 million by 2050 as populations grow older.

Furthermore, fairly recent medical research has established that it does not just hit the elderly and retired but can affect younger people who are still in work.  Many assume that those with dementia have stopped working, but that is not the case.

According to the Alzheimer's Society, there are 45,000 people in the UK between the ages of 30 and 65 with young-onset dementia, and 18% of them continue to work after their diagnosis.

Dementia is an umbrella term, which covers a range of conditions. Some can be quite aggressive and progress quickly but with others it can be up to 15 years before the disease significantly affects peoples’ abilities. There are high profile cases of people continuing to work and indeed to be creative after diagnosis. Terry Pratchett, the famous author, for example, published two best-selling books after his diagnosis. There are many other individuals who have carried on with responsible roles while in the early stages of dementia.

Legal responsibilities of employers

The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as being a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on someone’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The Equality Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against their employees because of their disability, and therefore safeguards employees from being chosen for redundancy or forced to retire because of dementia.

The act also imposes a legal duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments to a disabled employee’s role, in order to help them continue to work without being placed at any sort of disadvantage.

What can you do if you suffer from dementia, or any other disability, and you feel although you are being discriminated against by your employer?

You need to take urgent action in pursuing this. This is because in order to raise a claim at the employment tribunal, you need to act within three months less one day from the act of discrimination to raise a claim in the employment tribunal by first entering into the ACAS early conciliation process. It is always sensible to try and resolve any complaint by dealing with this directly with your employer, whether by way of informal or formal grievance.

If you have exhausted the internal complaint process at work and you feel that legal action and advice is necessary, you can contact a member of our specialist team by filling in our online enquiry form or by calling us on 01616 966 229.