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For employers, disability discrimination claims made by workers or employees can be hugely problematic. Successful claims can result in costly compensation pay-outs, disruption for your company as well as irreparable reputational damage. Thankfully, the employment solicitors at Wilford Smith have a proven track record when it comes to defending accusations of discrimination in the workplace.

Our employment lawyers have many years of experience acting on behalf of a diverse range of businesses, delivering clear, proactive legal support whatever the nature of the claims made against you. To discuss your circumstances, get in touch with us today.

Call us on 01709 828 044 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will get back to you without delay.

What is disability discrimination?

Disability discrimination is when an employer treats a worker or employee unequally because they have a disability, a perceived disability, or because someone they associate with has a disability. Disability is a 'protected characteristic' under the Equality Act 2010. As a result, discrimination on this basis is unlawful.

Disability discrimination can arise in several different ways. These are:

  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Discrimination arising from a disability
  • Failure to make reasonable adjustments
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation
  • One or more of the above

How is 'disability' defined in the Equality Act 2010?

Disability is defined as a “physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and adverse long-term effect on [an individual’s] day-to-day activities”.

  • The employee’s impairment can be mental, physical or both
  • 'Substantial' means the impairment is more than trivial but might fluctuate or change
  • 'Long-term' means that the impairment will last, or is likely to last, for at least 12 months
  • 'Day-to-day activities are those common to most people, such as standing up, sitting down, writing, using a computer or reading a timetable

Employees who have cancer, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis or visual impairment are automatically protected under the Equality Act.

Discrimination arising from a disability

This is when an employer treats a worker or employee unfavourably due to something connected to their disability. This may include an employee having difficulty spelling due to a diagnosis of dyslexia or having to take time off because of illness related to a disability. Discrimination arising from a disability would include denying an employee a bonus or selecting them for redundancy based on this.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments

The Equality Act 2010 creates obligations for employers to make adjustments for employees in the workplace to help them overcome any disadvantages arising from their disability. Failure to make these adjustments would amount to disability discrimination.

Are there circumstances when disability discrimination is not considered unlawful?

Yes, under the Equality Act, there are certain situations where treating a disabled person with a particular disability more favourably than other disabled people may be justified. This is called an occupational requirement, allowing an employer to specify that having a certain disability is essential for the job. Or, where an organisation is taking positive action to encourage or develop people with a particular disability.

It is always lawful to treat a non-disabled person less favourably than a disabled person.

Contact our Disability Discrimination Solicitors

At Wilford Smith, our employment solicitors will work tirelessly on your behalf to achieve the right result, taking a strategic and responsive approach throughout to protect your position and your business.  As part of our client-focused service, a member of our employment law team will be available from the earliest stage to begin assisting you with your defence. If you have any questions, we will be happy to answer these promptly and in plain English.

Speak with one of our employment lawyers today by calling 01709 828 044 or complete our online contact form.


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