Examples of Disability Discrimination at Work

Deana Bates
Employment Law Solicitor

There are many types of disability discrimination in the workplace and discrimination can happen in a few different ways. In England and Wales, it’s against the law to discriminate against someone for having a disability.

Disability is one of nine Protected Characteristics covered in the Equality Act 2010. So you have the right to not be discriminated against if you’re disabled.

If you believe that you’ve been a victim of disability discrimination at work, contact one of our expert Employment Law Solicitors for an initial consultation, help and advice. One of our team can be available to answer your questions straight away.

Call us on 0808 258 3531 or request a callback

Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

Below we show some examples of disability discrimination at work, but first, let’s look at what the law says.

English law protects you from disability discrimination in all walks of life, whether you’re in education, buying a property or at work. It’s useful to know the different types of discrimination because it helps you understand whether or not you’ve been treated unlawfully.

Sometimes, it’s not as obvious as you might think. The types of disability discrimination that can happen at work include:

  • Direct Discrimination – when someone is treated worse than another person because of a disability.
  • Discrimination by Association – when a person is discriminated against because of their relation to someone with a disabilityg. dismissing an employee because he/she has a disabled child
  • Indirect Discrimination – this happens when a rule or policy is put in place in the workplace which negatively affects someone with a disability
  • Perception Discrimination – when someone is discriminated against because they’re thought to have a disability which they don’t actually have
  • Harassment – this is when someone is subjected to unwanted behaviour which upsets or offends you, and is because you have a disability or it’s connected to your disability
  • Victimisation – this is when a person is treated badly because he/she has carried out a ‘protected act’. This includes if they make a complaint about disability discrimination
  • Failure to Make Reasonable Adjustments – employers have a duty to make sure disabled people are able to access the role and the workplace as easily as non-disabled people. A failure to make reasonable adjustments could mean you have a claim e.g. you have a bladder condition which is classed as a disability and you ask your employer to let you sit close to the toilet, but they refuse to allow this because somebody else wishes to sit there because they like the desk. This is likely to be a failure to make a reasonable adjustment
  • Discrimination Arising from a Disability – this is where you’re treated badly because of something linked to your disability e.g. your employer knows you have cancer and you’ve requested time off to attend an appointment for cancer treatment, which has reduced your attendance rating and caused you to miss out on a bonus payment due to your absence for cancer treatment

Examples of Disability Discrimination at Work

Here are some examples of disability discrimination in the workplace.

Mental Illness

If you have a mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, which has an effect on your day to day life, then this can be considered a disability.

One example of this is if you work at a slower rate than your colleagues because of the effect of your mental illness, and your employer takes disciplinary action against you because of your lower productivity levels. Another example would be if your sickness absence levels took you into a formal disciplinary process, but they were directly linked to your disability.

Discrimination by Association

If you care for someone with a disability, you could make a claim for discrimination by association if your employer treats you less favourably because of your caring responsibilities.

An example could be if you’re a single parent caring for a disabled child and have to take time off work each time your child is sick, has a medical appointment or a hospital stay. If your employer gets annoyed with the amount of time you are taking off and dismisses you, you may have grounds to make a claim for Discrimination by Association under the Equality Act 2010.

Reallocation of Work

If you apply for a job or are in a job, and there is a certain element of your job that you can’t do because of your disability, your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to your workplace. If they don’t, then a disability discrimination claim could be brought against your employer.

One example might be if you’re deaf and apply for a job which you’re qualified for and meet all requirements, but you’re not hired because the role requires a minor amount of telephone work which you couldn’t do without any reasonable adjustments being made. The potential employer should consider if it’s possible to reallocate that small part of the role to someone else or put in place mechanisms to aid you, rather than simply refuse your application for the position.

If they don’t try to make reasonable adjustments, you could make a disability discrimination claim even if you’ve not been successful in your job application.

How Our Employment Solicitors Can Help You

One of our specialist Employment Law Solicitors can talk to you about your situation and circumstances in detail to see if you have a claim. If you do, they can help you make a disability discrimination claim against your employer.

Disability discrimination at work cases are usually settled through an Employment Tribunal. You will need to complete ACAS Early Conciliation before taking your claim to an Employment Tribunal to try to settle it before you get to Tribunal. Your Employment Solicitor will help you throughout the whole process and help you to decide if an early settlement is the best option for you.

In a successful disability discrimination claim, you could be compensated for:

  • Any stress caused, which is known as ‘injury to feelings’
  • Potential loss of earnings, if you were suspended without pay or dismissed. You could ask to be reinstated to your role if you were dismissed as part of your claim

Nobody should have to suffer from discrimination at work because of a disability.

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