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Defending discrimination - hospitality & restaurants

If you provide services in the hospitality industry, you must consider how certain disabilities may impact the accessibility of your services for individuals and what measures can be taken by way of reasonable adjustments to your services/premises to alleviate any adverse impact.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments is ‘anticipatory’, which means that your business must think in advance about what is reasonably practicable, rather than to avoid the issue and be forced to act reactively.

If a customer can prove that you haven’t made reasonable adjustments and this prevents/causes them difficulty in accessing your services, they could have grounds to issue a discrimination claim against you. Reasonable adjustments can include things such as modifying the premises or providing a portable ramp and ensuring that the toilet facilities are accessible for those with mobility issues, increasing the lighting in the restaurant or above a particular table to accommodate customers who are partially sighted, or keeping the volume of background music to a minimum to accommodate customers who experience sensory difficulties.

One of the most important things you can do is provide your staff with disability awareness and inclusion training and educate them on how to be more inclusive of people with disabilities and the barriers that people living with disabilities may face. This will ultimately improve the customer service experience and allow your customers who have disabilities to feel more comfortable and welcome in their engagement with your services.

If your business receives complaints or claims of discrimination, our team can help you. For a no obligation discussion with our specialist discrimination defence solicitors, call us on 01616 966 229.


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Hospitality discrimination claims - the law

The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals against discrimination by businesses and other organisations that provide goods or services, including pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants based on one or of the ‘protected characteristics’, disability, race, religion and belief being just a few of them.

The most common cause for complaint of discrimination in the hospitality sector are claims of disability discrimination.

The law states that a person is ‘disabled’ if they have a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out daily activities. Some disabilities may be outwardly visible such as where a person uses a wheelchair or other mobility aids however there are a wide range of disabilities that are not necessarily visible to others. Such ‘hidden disabilities’ include autism, mental health conditions, acquired/traumatic brain injury, sensory processing impairments, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, partial sight and hearing loss.

All kinds of disabilities can pose potential challenges to service users/customers, from simple issues such as access and facilities for those who are mobility impaired, to more complex problems such as low light and high noise levels for those with sensory related conditions.

Discrimination claim example

The case of Hosegood v Khalid (t/a Salt & Pepper Village) outlines that service providers need to be very careful about the assumptions that they make about how a disabled person might be affected by a particular situation. In this case, the claimant was a wheelchair user who also suffered from spondylosis and stomach cancer. He decided to visit a local restaurant, who had assured him that they had wheelchair access to the restaurant however when they arrived, they found that there was a step up into the restaurant. Upon seeing him struggle to gain access to the premises, the restaurant staff insisted on wheeling the claimant up the steps which he found humiliating and as a result, he experienced distress and did not feel that he could stay for his reservation. Although the restaurant staff offered to physically help the customer into the restaurant, the court accepted that it would have been undignified for the customer to be required to accept the help of restaurant staff to negotiate the step into the restaurant. Despite this having been a ‘one-off’ incident, the judge awarded the customer financial damages of £3,000 and a further award of £500 for aggravated damages because the restaurant had been deemed to have behaved in an insulting and abusive way towards the claimant.

  • How Businesses & Organisations Can Guard Against Discrimination Claims

    Watch our animation to find out how businesses and organisations can attempt to guard against discrimination claims being brought against them.

    Our specialist discrimination law solicitors can provide businesses with assistance in preparing, updating and implementing relevant policies and give expert advice upon notification of complaints and claims of discrimination.


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