Are non-disabled employees in the UK protected from disability discrimination?

How did you answer? If your mental response was along the lines of  “no, of course, why would the law protect people who aren’t disabled from disability discrimination?” you may need to eat some humble pie.

The Equality Act 2010 essentially provides that discrimination occurs where one person treats another person less favourably “because of a protected characteristic”.

In contrast, the relevant bit in the now repealed Disability Discrimination Act 1995 stated that “a person discriminates against a disabled person if …  for a reason which relates to the disabled person’s disability, he treats him less favourably”.

A subtle but monumentally significant change. Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the discrimination had to relate to the disabled person’s disability and had to be directed at the disabled person. Under the Equality Act 2010, the discrimination must simply be “because of a protected characteristic”, so, in the context of disability discrimination, “because of disability”. The removal of the requirement that the discrimination has to relate to disability of the employee who is the subject of the discrimination, means that an employee can claim discrimination because of someone else’s disability. This is known as “associative discrimination”. If this all sounds a bit theoretical, our recent podcast is well worth a listen. We discuss two recent employment tribunal cases in which employees claimed that they were discriminated against because of someone else’s disability. In the first case we chatted about, the employee said she had been discriminated against because of her husband’s disability, and in the second case, the employee alleged that he had been discriminated against because of his father’s Alzheimer’s.

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