The Equality Act protects anyone who has or has had a disability from discrimination. However, the Act describes different types of discrimination, and often it is difficult to work out what your rights are. This article aims to explain how these parts of the Act could apply to you.
The Equality Act 2010 talks about direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation, let’s look at what each one means in practice for disabled people.
There are 3 types of direct discrimination, here are some examples -
- Caroline is a wheelchair user, she goes to a nightclub with a group of friends. The bouncer let’s all her friends in but refuses entry to Caroline saying she will take up too much space.
This is an example of direct discrimination as Caroline is being treated less favourably than her non-disabled friends.
- Andrew supports a group of young people with learning disabilities. After attending a group meeting Andrew goes into a nearby newsagents to buy a paper. The owner of the shop assumes he has a learning disability as he has seen Andrew out and about with members of the group. The owner of the shop tells Andrew to leave and not to come in again unless he is accompanied.
Even though Andrew is not a disabled people he is still facing direct discrimination because the shop owner presumes he has a learning disability. This is direct discrimination by perception.
- Alice is refused a place at her village nursery because the manager knows that her younger sister Matilda has a learning disability. The nursery operates a policy of automatically offering places to siblings and they are concerned that looking after her sister would take too much time.
Even though Alice does not have an impairment she is facing discrimination because her sister Matilda has a disability. This is direct discrimination by association.
Indirect discrimination happens when there is a rule, policy or even a practice that applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic, in this case disability.
- A housing association has a policy of reminding people about appointments to discuss their housing needs by telephone. This puts deaf people who cannot use the telephone at a disadvantage, as they do not receive a reminder of their appointment. Unless the association can justify its policy of making contact only by telephone as being a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, this is likely to amount to indirect discrimination.
In some cases indirect discrimination can be justified, but only if the organisation can show that it is a reasonable way of achieving a legitimate aim.
- Rachel works in a retail store. She is new to the team and when chatting to colleagues mentions her husband Mark has a visual impairment. Colleagues begin to bully Rachel by making comments about Mark’s visual impairment. She feels intimidated and dreads going to work.
This is an example of disability related harassment. Rachel is distressed by the unwanted behaviour she is receiving from colleagues because of her husband’s impairment.
Victimisation applies whether or not the person being victimised has a protected characteristic. It occurs when an organisation treats someone badly because -
- The person has made a complaint under the Equality Act.
- The person has helped someone else to make a complaint.
- The organisation thinks the person has made a complaint or assisted someone in doing so.
- The organisation thinks the person will make a complaint or assist someone in making one in the future.
- Phil has supported Tim in his complaint against their manager David. Tim believes that David has discriminated against him because of his hearing impairment. Since David was made aware of the complaint he has treated Phil badly, using disrespectful language.
In addition to these types of discrimination there is an additional type of discrimination that only applies to disability. This is discrimination arising from disability.
Discrimination arising from disability occurs when a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something connected with their disability. Discrimination arising from disability is different from direct discrimination.
Direct discrimination occurs when a service provider treats someone less favourably because of the disability itself. Discrimination arising from disability can occur only if the service provider knows or can reasonably be expected to know that the person has a disability.
- Laura has autism and often speaks out of turn in seminars. This can create a disruptive atmosphere for the tutor and other students. Because of her behaviour, Laura is asked not to attend seminars by her tutor. This is likely to be discrimination arising from disability if it can be reasonably expected that the tutor is aware that Laura has autism.
If you would like further information about your rights and the Equality Act 2010 a lot of useful information is provided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. You can find out more about types of discrimination on their website www.equalityhumanrights.com
If you would like to give your feedback on this article or have a question or topic you would like to see featured in this column in future please contact email@example.com.