Disability Laws in the UK: The Equality Act 2010

If you’ve read any of our recent articles, you’ve seen us reference the ADA’s diisability laws.  The thing is, disability isn’t just contained in America. Disabled people exist all over the world, and the laws to protect them differ from place to place.  I’ve been using the ADA as an example because I am in America, and those are the laws I am most familiar with. The UK, where Accessible Media Agency is headquartered, has its own set of disability laws pertaining to disability discrimination which are outlined in The Equality Act 2010.  This article is meant to serve as a primer for these laws. We will specifically be looking at employment laws, as that’s the focus of this blog and website, but feel free to read the rest on your own.

Overview

The first thing I noticed is that, unlike the ADA, it’s incredibly hard to find the act itself to read.  The closest I could find is on the gov.uk website, and I’m still unsure if this is the entirety of the Equality Act or just a summary.  Because of this, I will post some additional resources at the end of this article.

The Equality 2010 Act replaced the Disability Discrimination act (1995), with the exception of Northern Ireland.  It ensures that people with disabilities have the same rights in areas of employment, education, and dealing with the police as able-bodied people.  The Equality Act and the United Nations Convention on Disability Rights will help enforce and protect, and promote your rights.

Definition of Disability

So what is disability defined as when it comes to the Equality Act 2010?  Who is considered “disabled”? Luckily, the Equality Act 2010 has a concrete definition, because they knew people would ask this very question.  Under the Equality Act 2010, disability is defined as the following: 

“You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.”

Okay, that’s great.  But, the words “substantial” and “ long-term” are subjective.  Are there definitions for those too? Yes! The definitions are as follows:

“substantial’ is more than minor or trivial, eg it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed

‘long-term’ means 12 months or more, eg a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection

Awesome.  Now we’ve got a base to work with.  Keeping these definitions in mind, let’s move on to some of the laws.

Employment

In previous articles, we’ve discussed the benefits of employing people with disabilities, and how to go about it.  Discriminating against people with disabilities, at any stage of the process, is in violation of The Equality Act 2010.  This includes any of the following steps in the process:

  • application forms
  • interview arrangements
  • aptitude or proficiency tests
  • job offers
  • terms of employment, including pay
  • promotion, transfer and training opportunities
  • dismissal or redundancy
  • discipline and grievances

That means that applications must be accessible to all.  Be flexible with interview locations so it’s accessible. You cannot pay someone less just because they are disabled.  

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable accommodations are my favorite thing to talk about in terms of employment.  We’ve got several articles, such as this one, on what some reasonable accommodations might be requested, but those are by no means a comprehensive lists.  Called “Reasonable Adjustments” in the Equality Act 2010, they specifically mention examples of adjusted work hours and special equipment. 

Recruitment

The interview process is where, I think, a lot of discrimination happens.  People are too quick to judge one’s ability based on first-impressions. Luckily, the Equality Act 2010 has guidelines on what is and is not disability discrimination during the interview process.  An interviewer can only ask about your health and disability:

  • to help decide if you can carry out a task that is an essential part of the work
  • to help find out if you can take part in an interview
  • to help decide if the interviewers need to make reasonable adjustments for you in a selection process
  • to help monitoring
  • if they want to increase the number of disabled people they employ
  • if they need to know for the purposes of national security checks

Redundancy and Retirement

This is pretty straightforward.  You cannot force someone to retire because of their disability, and you cannot lay someone off because of their disability.  Reasonable accommodations are a thing you can and should use.

Education

Education shares a lot of the same ideas as employment.  People with disabilities have the same right to education as everyone else, and are allowed reasonable accommodations.  

Police

Police must arrange an interpreter for the deaf, hearing impaired, or people with speech difficulties.  However, this can be waived if the interview is time-sensitive (harm to property/evidence, other people).  

If you have a learning disability, you have the right (and police are required to get) to an “appropriate adult” to assist you with the interview.  This person must not work for the police department and should have experience with working with people with learning disabilities. Again, if the interview is time sensitive this can be waived.

If you are detained and need medical care, you are legally allowed to have it.  By default, they will provide the medical care they have on staff. You can request your own GP, but the expense will be yours and not the police.

And that’s the basics of the Equality Act 2010’s diisability laws in the UK!  Hopefully this clears some things up, and I’m excited to continue learning about different disability laws with you in the future.

Additional Resources

https://www.rnib.org.uk/information-everyday-living-your-rights/disability-discrimination-act-dda

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/6

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/equality-act-2010/what-equality-act

The Equality Act diisability laws
Disability Laws in the UK: The Equality Act 2010

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