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Disabled people can face many barriers and obstacles in the workplace or when they are seeking employment. These can place them at a disadvantage compared to non disabled workers and can often result in them being treated unfairly and less favourable. The coalition government’s ruthless spending cuts and benefit reforms have also had a devastating impacted on people with disabilities both within the workplace and society.

Currently in the UK there are 1.3 million disabled people who are available for work. One in four people of working age in Great Britain have a disability.

The Equality Act came into force in October 2010, and replaced the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on the employer to treat workers with disabilities fairly and makes it unlawful to treat workers with disabilities less favourable. When this happens this is called discrimination. One of the corner stone’s of the Equality act is the duty placed on employers to remove practices and criteria that put disabled workers at a disadvantage. This is called making reasonable adjustments to the workplace. The Equality Act has strengthened this duty compared to the previous DDA, as it now allows practices and criteria that ‘would put’ disabled workers at a disadvantage to be challenged before they are implemented.

A person will be deemed to have a disability if they have an impairment that affects one or more of the following:

  • mobility;
  • manual dexterity;
  • physical co-ordination;
  • continence;
  • ability to lift, carry or otherwise move everyday objects;
  • speech, hearing, or eyesight;
  • memory or ability to concentration, learn or understand; and/or
  • perception of the risk of physical danger.

However there is no definitive list of what constitutes a physical or mental impairment. A mental impairment does not need to be ‘clinically well recognised’ to gain protection under the act.

A person who has cancer, HIV infection, or multiple sclerosis is deemed to have a disability from the point of diagnosis.

Look out for employers that display the ‘Two Tick’ Disability Symbol. Employers who display this symbol have been awarded this by Job Centre Plus as they have a positive attitude towards workers with disabilities, and have made five commitments to support them, regarding the recruitment, training, retention, consultation and raising disability awareness.

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Additional Resources

TUC Disability Forum Focus - Vol 3

download pdf2114Kb (pdf) - 17 March 2015

The TUC fears that spending cuts are undermining the increasing recognition of the extent of mental ill health problems we have seen in the workplace in recent years, and the measures that have been taken in response.