Do you know your rights?
Did you know that in certain situations, such as at work, the law says that you can’t be treated less favourably, or put at a disadvantage, because you have a disability? This is because Disability is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.
“Disability” means that someone has a long-lasting physical or mental condition which either stops them from doing everyday things or makes doing them harder, for instance, because the activity causes the person pain, or it takes them longer than other people. Someone who can’t lift heavy weights because they have a bad back has a disability. The condition must last for at least a year to be considered a disability, but it doesn’t have to be continuous. Certain conditions eg cancer are automatically classed as disabilities.
This unfair treatment is called discrimination.There are several types of discrimination, including direct and indirect discrimination.
Direct discrimination is when you are treated worse than someone who is not disabled, for instance, if an employer cancelled an interview for a job when you arrived and they saw that you use a wheelchair. Indirect discrimination is when an arrangement that affects everyone has an unfair effect on some people because of their disability. For instance, only providing information about promotion opportunities via a list on a staff noticeboard would indirectly discriminate against employees with impaired vision.
If you work and you have a disability, your employer has to make what are called “reasonable adjustments” to allow you to do your job. This might mean providing a standing desk for someone with a bad back, or allowing someone suffering from episodes of depression to work shorter hours when they are ill. The employer is allowed to balance the needs of the employee with the needs of the organisation; it may be unreasonable to expect a small organisation to spend a lot of money to make an adjustment. And the employer does not have to change the basic nature of the job (for instance, it would not be possible to adjust the job of a bus driver who develops epilepsy and therefore cannot drive), but the employer should consider whether they can move the worker to another job.
It’s important to know and understand equality law, but it can be complex.