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«Table of contents Introduction 5 Overview of Equality Act 7 The wide scope of „disability‟ under the EqA 8 Disability discrimination under the ...»

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Proving disability and

Proving Disability and Reasonable


A guide to evidence under the Equality Act 2010

October 2014

Proving disability and reasonable adjustments 2

Table of contents

Introduction 5

Overview of Equality Act 7

The wide scope of „disability‟ under the EqA 8

Disability discrimination under the EqA 8 Who is “disabled” under the EqA? 12 The legal definition: overview 12 Special cases – where disability is automatically covered 20 Particular issues which may arise 20 Past disabilities 21 The duty to make reasonable adjustments 24 How much must an employer do? 26 Pitfalls 31 Reasonable adjustments: some ideas appropriate to many disabilities 32 Bringing a tribunal claim 41 The Questions Procedure 41 Early conciliation 41 Time-limits 42 Proving disability and reasonable adjustments 3 The public sector equality duty 44 The general duty 44 Specific duties 44 Communication and language 45 Directory of impairments 47 Agoraphobia 48 Allergy 50 Arthritis 54 Asthma 56 Autism or Autistic Spectrum Disorder 59 Back Impairment 62 Cancer 65 Cerebral Palsy 66 Depression 68 Diabetes 73 Disfigurement 77 Dyslexia 79 Epilepsy 84 Hearing Impairment 88 Heart Impairment 93 HIV / AIDS 95 Inflammatory Bowel Disease 97 Learning Disability or Learning Difficulties 100 M.E. or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 104 Mental Health Issues 107 Migraine 112 Mobility Impairment 115 Multiple Sclerosis 118 Proving disability and reasonable adjustments 4

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Introduction There are two big problems facing UNISON representatives trying to support the rights of disabled members in the workplace. First, in many cases, employers refuse to acknowledge that the member has a disability which is protected by the legislation.

Second, employers do not understand how much the law requires them to do by way of reasonable adjustment. This Guide aims to help representatives recognise and understand members‟ rights and persuade employers to take appropriate action.

The law prohibiting disability discrimination in employment and other fields was introduced by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (“DDA”). On 1 October 2010, it became part of the Equality Act 2010 (“EqA”) instead. Although the basic concepts remained the same, there were small changes to the way the definition of disability is applied and to ways in which disability discrimination can occur.

The EqA only protects workers if they have a disability which meets the complex definition in the Act. This has become a big problem in practice, with a high percentage of claims failing because the worker cannot prove s/he meets every stage of the definition. It is not possible to list a range of conditions, eg arthritis, diabetes, depression, back impairment, and to say these will always be covered. Each case will depend on the effects of the impairment and their severity.

This Guide looks at how to go about proving that different conditions meet the legal definition. The general guidance is followed by a series of detailed examples focussing on common disabilities as well as those which are likely to be particularly difficult to prove due to prejudices around their effects, eg RSI, ME, depression and migraine.

The employer‟s duty to make reasonable adjustments is at the heart of disability discrimination law. This Guide sets out the law and provides examples of appropriate adjustments and sources of further ideas.

Every individual experiences his/her disability very differently. It is crucial not to make generalisations. Some people will experience little effect on their day-to-day activities and will manage at work quite easily. Others will have severe effects. It is therefore essential to listen to what the member says about the daily effects of his/her disability, and let him/her identify the difficulties s/he has at work. Nevertheless, a rep needs to be aware that many people have “coping strategies” and have found ways around the effects of their disability.

They are likely to “play down” its effect. For legal purposes, a rep needs to find out the full effect, but this must be done sensitively. Gaining information and knowledge by some Proving disability and reasonable adjustments 6 advance research into the relevant disability should help build the member‟s confidence as well as give reps ideas of areas to explore with the member.

This Guide has not been written by a doctor and is not intended to provide medical information or advice. The reason for giving a broad indication of the nature of each condition is to assist reps in asking the right questions and applying the legal definition of “disability”.

Please note that this guide is not intended to amount to legal advice. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this guide, the author can accept no responsibility for its correctness or for the consequences of advice given or action taken based on its contents.

It is important always to get advice through the relevant union channels where the rep is uncertain or if there is any possibility of a future case. Time-limits are particularly easy to miss in disability cases.

The guide is written by Tamara Lewis. This edition of the guide is especially revised and adapted for UNISON.

The law is as known at 1st September 2014. References to the Guidance are to the current 1st May 2011 revision.

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Overview of Equality Act The Equality Act 2010 (“EqA”) forbids discrimination against people because of various protected characteristics, including race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion and belief as well as disability. It is also concerned with the removal of unnecessary barriers to the full participation of disabled people in work and society.

This Guide only looks at the treatment of disabled people at work, but many of the principles will equally apply in other areas covered by the EqA, eg provision of services.

The Guide does not deal with all areas of the law related to disability. For more detail on the relevant law and running a case, see “Employment Law: An Adviser‟s Handbook” by Tamara Lewis (see bibliography at the end, page 141).

There are two important documents which a UNISON representative needs access to:

 The Guidance. This deals with the definition of “disability” and therefore who is covered by the EqA. Its full name is the Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of ‘disability‟.

 The EHRC Employment Code. The Code covers discrimination in employment in relation to all the protected characteristics under the EqA, not just disability. Its official name is Employment: Statutory Code of Practice. Chapters 5 and 6 focus particularly on disability and give useful guidelines and illustrations of the law, including the kind of adjustments which employers should make to their workplace and when discrimination may be justified.

These documents do not set out the law in themselves, but employment tribunals (“tribunals”) must take into account any relevant provisions when deciding cases. The Code can be ordered from TSO online bookshop at www.tso.co.uk or telephone 0870 600 5522. Alternatively, both documents can be downloaded from the Equality and Human Rights Commission website at www.equalityhumanrights.com

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The wide scope of „disability‟ under the EqA A disability discrimination case can be brought by existing employees, job applicants, workers employed on a contract personally to do work, apprentices and contract workers, eg many agency workers or those working for contracted-out services. There is no minimum qualifying service or hours required for a worker to make a claim.

The EqA does not simply protect a small number of people with visible disabilities. It can protect large numbers of people with invisible as well as obvious and visible disabilities. It may also protect those with temporary, but long-term, injuries or ill-health, who would not normally think of themselves or be considered by others as having a disability.

Reps need to be alert, because members may not identify themselves as disabled and may be reluctant to do so. This can be a sensitive matter. Yet workers covered by the EqA may gain greatly improved employment rights.

Vastly greater numbers of workers have impairments within the wide definition of disability under the EqA than would qualify for statutory sick pay or Employment and Support Allowance because of disability.

The legal definition of disability is difficult to apply and sometimes defies common sense.

This Guide aims to help reps identify when a member is covered by the EqA and to find the necessary evidence. The general legal principles are set out at pages 7 - 40. Then a number of specific disabilities are considered in the Directory starting at page 47.

Disability discrimination under the EqA There are several different forms of disability discrimination under the EqA. The following is only a brief summary and not a full guide to the scope of each concept.

1. Failure to make reasonable adjustments – s20 – s21 This duty is at the heart of disability discrimination law. Where any workplace practice or feature of the premises puts a disabled worker at a disadvantage, the employer must make all adjustments which are reasonable to remove that disadvantage.

–  –  –

suggests adjustments for individual impairments..

2. Direct discrimination – s13 It is unlawful for an employer to treat the member less favourably because of his/her disability than s/he treats or would treat a person without that particular disability.

For example, an employer dismisses a disabled worker because s/he has taken 3 months‟ sickness absence. The employer does not dismiss a non-disabled worker who has taken the same amount of sick leave.

Provided the reason for the different treatment is the member‟s disability, there is no defence. This concept is equivalent to that of direct discrimination because of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion and belief under the EqA.

It is not disability discrimination against a non-disabled worker to treat a disabled worker more favourably because of his/her disability Direct discrimination by association It is also unlawful to treat the member less favourably because of the disability of someone else, eg someone with whom s/he is associated. For example, an employer refuses to take on a non-disabled worker because s/he has a disabled child, but is quite happy to take on non-disabled workers who have children of a similar age who are not disabled.

It is important not to misunderstand this. It appears that there is no legal right under EU law or the EqA for a non-disabled worker to have reasonable adjustments to take care of disabled relatives. Members with caring requirements, whether for disabled or non-disabled children, are most likely to rely on indirect sex discrimination law.

Direct discrimination due to perceived disability Due to the wording of the EqA s13, it is thought to be unlawful to discriminate against a non-disabled worker because s/he is wrongly perceived to have a disability. It is unclear exactly what circumstances would fit such a claim.

3. Discrimination arising from disability (“DAFD”) – s15 It is unlawful to treat the member unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of his/her disability. For example, if a partially-sighted worker was dismissed for making computer-entry errors, when those mistakes were because s/he could not see the computer screen properly.

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4. Harassment – s26 Harassment takes place where, for a reason that relates to the disabled worker‟s disability or the disability of someone else, the harasser engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating the worker‟s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him/her.

This concept is the same as for harassment relating to race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion and belief.

5. Indirect discrimination – s19 Indirect discrimination occurs where the employer applies a provision, criterion or practice generally, which puts a disabled worker and others who have the same disability at a particular disadvantage. It is not unlawful if the employer can prove that applying the provision, criterion or practice was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Indirect discrimination applies to the protected characteristics of race, sex, age, sexual orientation and religion and belief, but did not apply to disability under the DDA. It was introduced under the EqA, but it will only in limited circumstances be needed, given the more flexible concept of reasonable adjustment, which applies only to disability.

6. Victimisation – s27 This concept is the same in respect of all the protected characteristics. Essentially it occurs when the member is punished or treated differently as a result of complaining about disability discrimination or complaining that the employer has not made reasonable adjustments. For example, the member raises a grievance about disability discrimination and is dismissed as a result.

It does not matter whether the member raised the issue formally or informally, in a grievance or in a tribunal case, on his/her own behalf or on behalf of a colleague who is disabled.

The employer has a defence if the member‟s allegation was false and made in bad faith.

7. Pre-employment disability or health enquiries – s60 The EqA 2010 introduced a new ban on enquiries about health and disability before a job has been offered. Such enquiries were thought to be the main reason why disabled job candidates often failed to reach the interview stage and were also a Proving disability and reasonable adjustments 11 disincentive in them applying for jobs. With certain exceptions, employers are now not allowed to ask job candidates questions about their health or whether they have a disability until they have offered a job (on a conditional or unconditional basis) or put the candidate into a pool of successful candidates to be offered a job when one becomes available.

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