The UK's Disability Discrimination Act (The DDA) came into force in October 2004 and was designed to give the United Kingdom's disabled community certain rights that non-disabled persons often take for granted. The DDA has been replaced with the comprehensive Equality Act of 2010. The Act covers the civil rights protections for disabled persons in the workplace.
The Equality Act of 2010
Individuals that have physical or mental impairments that have a substantial and long-term negative effect on the ability to conduct normal activities are considered to be disabled under the Equality Act of 2010. The Act does provide for special rules that cover disabled persons and the employment process. Generally speaking, the Equality Act of 2010 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against disabled persons when it comes to the following:
- Application forms
- Interview arrangements
- Aptitude or proficiency tests
- Job offers
- Terms of employment including pay
- Promotion, transfer and training opportunities
- Work-related benefits such as access to recreation or refreshment facilities
- Dismissal or redundancy
- Discipline and grievances
Employers are required to comply with certain rules when it comes to the employment of disabled persons. For example, employers are barred from taking the following actions:
- Treat disabled persons less favorably because of a disability
- Indirectly discriminate against a disabled person unless they have a fair and balanced reason for doing so - whether or not an employer's act is fair and balanced will be determined by the agency of oversight and the court
- Directly discriminate against or harass a person who is wrongly thought to be disabled or because of association with a disabled person
- Victimize anyone that is making a complaint under the Act
Reasonable adjustments are changes made to the workplace or the employment process to accommodate any difficulties or special needs that a disabled person who is applying for a job or works at a job might have. The adjustments have to be reasonable and can include such things as adjusting work hours, creating more than one version of an application, or installing a ramp over steps to allow for wheelchair access into a building.
Redundancy and Retirement
Under UK employment law, redundancy is a form of dismissal from your job. An employer must make redundancy decisions in a fair and equitable way. For example, redundancy might stem from an employee's level of experience or inability to complete a job. However, employers cannot fire disabled persons because of actions that are directly connected to their disability. In addition, an employer cannot force a disabled person to retire on the basis of anything connected to his or her disability.
Employers should take care to not ask pointed questions about a potential employee's health or about any apparent disabilities to ensure that there is no hint of discrimination. However, depending on the business of the employer, there are certain circumstances in which questions will be deemed to be acceptable, including:
- If you need to determine if an employee can carry out an essential job function
- To find out if a non-traditional interview is a better option
- To see if any reasonable adjustment should be made during the hiring process
Penalties for Failure to Comply
Employers can face stiff penalties for violating the Equality Act. This is true for both discriminating against an individual or for violating the Act's reporting requirements. Employer tribunals handle most of these cases. Penalties that can be imposed by employer tribunals include fines, damages, compensation for lost wages, and ordering an employer to make corrective behavior to reduce or eliminate discrimination.
Further Protections Offered by the Equality Act
The Equality Act of 2010 covers discrimination against established protected classes including disabled persons, age, marital preference, sexual orientation, and more. People who fall into one of these categories, or who wants to discover the additional covered categories, should visit the Equality Act of 2010 website for complete information.