What is a Disability under the Equality Act 2010


Businesses know how difficult a line to tread the Equality Act can be. In this article we highlight conditions which may not strike you as a disability, but are covered within the Equality Act 2010’s definition of a disability.

What is a disability under the Equality Act 2010

It is extremely important that employers are aware of what amounts to a disability, to ensure that they are complying with their obligation to make reasonable adjustments to assist and support any disabled employees in the workplace. The following common conditions can be deemed a disability for the purpose of anti-discrimination legislation and it’s vital that, as an employer, you know it.

Severe Allergic Reactions

In the Tribunal case of Wheeldon v Marstons plc, a severe nut allergy was deemed a disability. In this case the Claimant, a chef, suffered a severe allergic reaction caused by coming into contact with nuts whilst at working.


The Equality Act 2010 states that from the point at which an individual is diagnosed as HIV positive they are protected under the Act for the purposes of discrimination.


In the Tribunal case of Clark v Newsquest Media (Southern) Ltd an employer was ordered to pay £25,000 as an award for discriminating against an employee who was an insulin dependent diabetic. The employee was told to inject her insulin in the toilet. This case highlights that an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to assist a diabetic employee in managing their condition.


Medically diagnosed dyslexia was ruled as a disability by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Paterson v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. In this case the employee was to be given 25% more time when sitting examinations as part of the process of applying for a promotion within the Police.


From the point an individual is diagnosed with cancer they are afforded protection against discrimination under the Equality Act.


The common skin condition can be deemed a disability if it is so severe as to have an effect on the individual’s regular daily living. In the case of Glass v Promotional Line Ltd the Tribunal ruled that the Claimant was disabled as she was able to show that at times her condition prevented or restricted her when socialising, playing sport and sometimes even leaving the house.The Equality Act 2010 states that where a person suffers from a condition which causes a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities, they are considered by the Act as disabled and therefore afforded protection under the Act.

The above bullet points are examples to show how broad the definition of what amounts to a ‘disability’ really is. A helpful piece of guidance for employers is to communicate with an employee at the earliest opportunity if you are put on notice that the employee may have a disability. It should be explored as early as possible whether any adjustments are required to support that employee.

If you need employment law advice from a solicitor on any of the issues highlighted, or on any other employment law matter, visit our employment section for employees and for businesses, or you can contact our Employment Team on 0808 129 3320 or contact us online.

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