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Disability discrimination at work

Everyone In England, Wales, and Scotland, with a disability is covered by the Equality Act 2010. In Northern Ireland, people with disabilities are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The Equality Act 2010 has nine protected characteristics, one of which is disability. The law protects you from discrimination in the workplace. It’s important to know your rights and what to do if you’re being treated unequally due to your disability.

What is disability discrimination at work?

When someone treats you unfairly because you have a disability, that is discrimination. It is also illegal.

At work, discrimination could include:

  • Not being provided with reasonable adjustments to carry out your job
  • A job offer being withdrawn once they learn about your disability
  • Being fired because of disability-related periods of absence
  • Being bullied because you’re disabled
Types of disability discrimination at work

There are several types of disability discrimination within the workplace including direct, indirect, harassment, and failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Direct discrimination is when you’re treated unfairly or less favourably because of your disability. An example of this is if your manager organises a fun team bonding day and excludes you because they assume you won’t take part in the activities.

Indirect discrimination is when a workplace unintentionally disadvantages a disabled person, for example by not ensuring that the work breakroom is accessible.

Harassment is when someone at work makes offensive jokes or remarks about disability.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments is disability discrimination. Unfortunately, there isn’t a legal definition of what a ‘reasonable adjustment’ is but if it’s easy to do and not costly, and it’s not done – that could be considered disability discrimination. You should discuss with your employer what adjustments you need to carry out your work in a reasonable and safe manner.

When does disability discrimination at work happen?

Disability discrimination can happen at any stage of employment – from applying for a job to being made redundant.

The Equality Act 2010 offers legal protection against disability in the workplace and covers areas such as:

  • Application forms
  • Interview arrangements
  • Aptitude or proficiency tests
  • Job offers
  • Terms of employment, including pay
  • Promotion, transfer, and training opportunities
  • Termination or redundancy
  • Disciplinary action and grievances

Do I have to disclose my disability when I apply for work?

You don’t have to tell your potential employer about your disability. Your employer is only allowed to ask you about your condition or disability before offering you the job under very limited circumstances. For example, if they need to:

  • Make reasonable adjustments during the interview
  • Make a decision about whether you can do something that is an essential part of the job

Your potential employer cannot discriminate against you in their recruitment and selection processes. You also have the right to discuss your needs and any reasonable adjustments that might need to be made.

What to do if you have been discriminated against

If you believe that you have faced discrimination at work because of your disability, you can raise a grievance, get independent advice, or make a claim.

For free advice on workplace rights contact ACAS.

Or contact the Disability Law Service, which provides free legal advice to disabled people.

You can also contact your local Law Centre if you need help or advice.

Another option available is to contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service. They offer advice and assistance to issues relating to equality and human rights.

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