Could an employee who is refused time off to care for a disabled dependant bring a claim under the Equality Act 2010?
Under the Equality Act 2010, direct discrimination based on association is unlawful. In the context of disability discrimination, this means that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because of his or her association with a disabled person, for example because he or she is the carer for a disabled dependant. As such, the employer should treat the request for time off as it would a request from another employee where the purpose of the leave is not to care for a disabled person. It would be unlawful discrimination to refuse the time off because the purpose of the leave is to care for a disabled dependant.
However, the Equality Act 2010 does not impose a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for an employee who has responsibility as a carer for someone who is disabled. Therefore, the employee does not have the right to insist on the time off as a reasonable adjustment.