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Do disabled people get special protection at work?

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on disability grounds. This applies to recruitment, terms and conditions of employment, promotion, and selection for redundancy or dismissal. There are some important points to remember:

  • direct discrimination is against the law
  • an employer may sometimes be able to treat a disabled person less favourably, if they have a sufficiently justifiable reason for doing so. For example, an employer would be justified in rejecting someone with severe back pain for a job as a carpet fitter, as they cannot carry out the essential requirements of the job
  • if your employer fails to make 'reasonable adjustments' for your disability, this is discrimination
  • discrimination can take place as a result of someone's disability. For example, a worker is given night shifts to do. She has kidney failure and has nightly dialysis. Making her do night shifts will result in unfavourable treatment and will be illegal unless her employer can justify it
  • it is against the law for your employer, or anyone who works with you, to harass you because of your disability, for example by calling you names or making jokes about your disability
  • it is against the law for your employer to victimise you for taking action under the Equality Act, or for helping someone else to take action.

If you think you have been discriminated against because you have a disability, contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

For more information about what counts as 'reasonable adjustments' to the workplace, and for general information about what to do about disability discrimination, see Disability discrimination.

If you have experienced discrimination, you can also get help from the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) discrimination helpline.

More about the EASS helpline

Other Frequently asked questions about work: