Chelmsford TUC

Equal Opportunities

Discrimination & Disabled People

There are over 6.6 million disabled people of working age in Britain, accounting for nearly one-fifth of the working population. Disabled people are nearly seven times as likely as non-disabled people to be out of work and claiming benefits. One in three disabled people find themselves out of work within a year of starting a job, compared with a fifth of non-disabled people starting work.

Under the Act, employers who employ more than fifteen people must ensure that they do not discriminate against someone with a disability in the following areas:

  • Selection arrangements
  • Recruitment
  • Promotion
  • Terms of employment
  • Training
  • Benefits
  • Working conditions
  • Dismissal

It is unlawful for an employer or a potential employer to dismiss or discriminate against a person for a reason relating to disability unless the employer can substantially justify his/her treatment.

It should be noted that a disability must be a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial or long term effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. This includes the ability to move or change positions or could include a severe speech impediment or severe dyslexia. However, addiction to alcohol, drugs or hay fever are specifically excluded from this definition. An important part of the Act is that employers must make reasonable adjustments if the current arrangements or premises substantially disadvantage a disabled employee or applicant.

Complaints may be taken to an Industrial Tribunal. The Act’s provisions also include a Conciliation Officer, through ACAS and Compromise Agreements. The Government has also produced a Code of Practice to assist the implementation of the Act and has established a Disability Rights Commission to oversee the Act.

Some unions have established Advisory Committees for their disabled members, and have negotiated agreements with the employers for disability equality - good reasons to join a union.

The TUC has published two excellent pamphlets "Representing and supporting members with mental health problems at work: guidance for trade union representatives."

"Disability at Work - A trade union guide to the law and good practice."

You might like to consider affiliating to the Trade Union Disability Alliance and signing up to its charter for disability equality.

For further information on the law and harrassment of disabled people look at our page on Violence and Harassment at Work.