Disability and discrimination in the workplace
The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from disability-related discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The Equality Act also protects an employee from ‘discrimination arising from disability’ – this is where they are treated unfavourably, not because of the disability itself, but because of something linked with their disability.
How can disability discrimination happen?
There are four main types of discrimination within the protected characteristic of Disability under the Equality Act 2010:
Direct discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably than others. It can be because of:
- their disability – this is ordinary direct discrimination
- the disability of someone they are associated with (friend, family, colleague). This is direct discrimination by association
- how they are perceived – that they are believed to have a disability. This is direct discrimination by perception, whether or not the perception is true.
Indirect discrimination occurs where an employer applies conditions or practice to all employees, but it puts disabled people at a particular disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.
Harassment is an ‘unwanted conduct’. It must have the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual. It can be verbal, written or physical.
Victimisation is when an employee suffers a ‘detriment’ – something that causes damage, harm, or loss – because of:
- making an allegation of discrimination
- supporting a complaint of discrimination
- giving evidence relating to a complaint about discrimination
- raising a grievance concerning equality or discrimination.
An employee is protected under the Equality Act if they make, or support, an allegation of victimisation as long as it is in good faith – even if the information or evidence they give proves to be inaccurate.