Disability Discrimination in the Workforce
Despite the fact that disability discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010, disabled workers are still being discriminated in the workplace. According to a recent study, as many as 20 percent of disabled workers don’t feel supported or treated equally as their non-disabled colleagues. Also, nearly 50 percent of study participants said they would prefer not to disclose their disability in job application. Furthermore, approximately 75 percent of respondents said they don’t like to talk about their disability because they are concerned about discrimination.
Definition of Disability
Disability is defined as a mental or physical condition with a long-lasting effect which substantially disrupts a person’s everyday life. Under the Equality Act, some conditions automatically qualify as a disability. And since disability is a protected characteristic, it is automatically unlawful to treat a person unfavourably if they have any of the following conditions:
- severe physical disfigurement
- certified blindness or severe sight impairment
- multiple sclerosis
Depending on the severity of their impact on the sufferer’s daily life, the conditions below may also qualify as a disability under the Equality Act:
- physical or mental impairment due to an injury
- mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression
- progressive/degenerative conditions such and muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s disease
- learning difficulties and disabilities
- conditions affecting organs such as stroke and heart disease
- conditions that may worsen over time or come in episodes such as arthritis and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)
Under the Equality Act, it is against the law to treat someone unfairly if suffering from any of the conditions that qualify as a disability. But it is also against the law to discriminate against a person who is associated with a person with disability.
Discrimination Arising from Disability
A disabled person can also be discriminated by being denied reasonable adjustments needed for them to do their job or sometimes even being able to access the workplace. This is called discrimination arising from disability. Under the Equality Act, employers mustn’t discriminate against a person with disability in this way. They have a duty to make reasonable adjustments.
Preventing Disability Discrimination in the Workplace
In addition to implementing the best practices in accordance with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, employers are also recommended to ensure that their workers understand employee rights including those concerning disability (and other protected characteristics). It is extremely important for them to understand that there is a thin line between a joke or insult and that any insulting jokes, remarks or comments about disability can qualify as a harassment.