Guide to employment related disability discrimination – what legal protection do you have?

Under the Equality Act, if you have a disability your employer is required to consider and make reasonable adjustments to help you in the workplace.

The question of whether a medical condition will amount to a disability for legal purposes is not always straightforward.

An employer is only obliged to make reasonable adjustments if it knows or ought reasonably to know that you have  a disability. You need to tell your employer if you want it to consider making any adjustments to your work environment or its working practices to help you.

Think carefully about when and how to raise any request for reasonable adjustments. For example, if the disability is affecting your performance it makes sense to raise the issue sooner rather than later and in any event before an employer starts any formal performance management process. If such a process is triggered it is important to explain how your disability is affecting your work and what adjustments would help you do your job better.

There is no obligation on you to suggest adjustments as this is solely the employer’s responsibility.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Code sets out a non-exhaustive list of potential adjustments. If you have a disability and are unsure what kinds of adjustments can be considered, have a look at the Code.

When considering whether an adjustment is reasonable or not the most important factor is the extent to which the adjustment will reduce any disadvantage that you are suffering.

Case law has confirmed that an adjustment might be reasonable even if it does not remove all the disadvantage you are suffering.  An adjustment may be reasonable where there is just “a prospect” that it will succeed and that a reasonable adjustment need not have a good prospect of removing the disadvantage.

Other factors that will help determine whether an adjustment is reasonable include the extent to which the adjustment is practicable, the financial/non-financial cost, the disruptiveness of the adjustment, the financial/non-financial resources available to the employer, the availability or external financial/other assistance, the nature of the employer’s activities and the size of the business.

An employee with a disability is not required to pay for the cost of making reasonable adjustments.

Although most employers (especially where they are of medium/larger size) will be familiar with their obligations and are keen to comply with the law, you should keep a written note of any discussions you have with your employer about your disability and how your employer reacts.

In the (hopefully) unlikely event of your employer refusing to consider and make reasonable adjustments and/or subsequently treating you badly because of your request for reasonable adjustments or because of its knowledge that you have a disability this will help protect your position and potentially be important ammunition if steps are needed to protect your rights.

If you need advice about how to enforce your disability rights against your employer David Greenhalgh has expertise and experience gained from helping employees with many types of disabilities.  David can be contacted on 020 3603 2177.


This article/blog is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.