Disability discrimination at work

Disability discrimination is when someone puts you at a disadvantage because of your condition or impairment. This could include:

  • your employer not providing reasonable adjustments that would help you to do your job
  • an employer withdrawing a job offer when they learn of your condition
  • your employer firing you due to disability-related absences
  • workplace bullying because you are disabled

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination in the workplace. It defines a disabled person as someone with “a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [their] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities".

Types of disability discrimination

Discrimination is when someone puts you at a disadvantage because of your condition. There are different types of disability discrimination.

Direct discrimination

When a disabled person is treated unfairly because of their impairment or condition. For example, if you do not get a place on a training course because your employer assumes it would be difficult for you to get there.

Indirect discrimination

When a workplace process or rule inadvertently disadvantages a disabled person, like the work cafeteria not being accessible.

Harassment

When a colleague makes offensive remarks about your condition.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments

There is no set definition of what is 'reasonable', it depends on the job and the employer. But if something is easy and inexpensive to do, and your employer has not done it, this could be disability discrimination.

Reasonable adjustments at work

When discrimination can happen

You can face discrimination at any stage of employment.

Applying

If you are not selected for interview because of your condition. This can be difficult to prove.

Interviews

If you do not get adjustments at interview after you ask for them, this could be discrimination. Your interviewer is not allowed to ask you about your condition or how it affects you, except in very limited circumstances. These include discussing adjustments you may need to perform as well as others in the recruitment process, or your ability to do the core aspects of the job.

Talking about your condition or impairment

At work

You can face discrimination if your employer does not make reasonable adjustments to enable you to do your job. Reasonable adjustments can include flexible working and different duties.

Promotions

If you do not get a promotion or a pay rise because you are disabled, this is discrimination.

Termination

It may be discrimination if you are fired due to disability-related absences.

What you can do if you face discrimination

1. Start with a chat

If you face discrimination at work, talk to a manager as soon as possible.

2. Raise a grievance

If you cannot resolve this informally, try raising a grievance. This is a complaint that should follow your employer's formal procedure. Ask HR if you do not know where to find information about it.

Raising a grievance usually involves writing a letter with details of the discrimination. Your employer’s grievance policy should explain what you need to do. It will also tell you how long each stage of the procedure should take. If you are unfairly treated for raising a grievance, this is also discrimination.

3. Get independent advice

If raising a grievance does not help, seek advice. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) provides free, impartial advice on all workplace issues. Your union may be able to help you or act as a mediator.

4. Make a claim for disability discrimination

If mediation fails, you can make a claim for disability discrimination at an employment tribunal.

Tribunals are a last resort and can be stressful. Think carefully before going ahead. The time limit for making a discrimination claim at a tribunal is 3 months less a day from the date when the discrimination happened.

Keep notes of any conversations and copies of any emails so you can show that you tried to follow your employer's procedures and find a solution.

Time limits for making a discrimination claim in the employment tribunal (Citizens Advice)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 16/05/2018

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Attitudes to disability in the workplace

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