What is disability?
Disability is known in equality law as a ‘protected characteristic’. This means that individuals who have a disability are protected from discrimination when they use services, or are in education or employment.
In the Equality Act 2010, disability is described as:
‘A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’
The language used in this definition can sometimes be confusing but, some of the words used are explained further in the Equality Act as follows:
‘Impairment‘ – an impairment is a condition that can be physical, mental or both.
‘Substantial and long-term adverse effect‘ – this is the impact an impairment or condition has on a person. Long-term means lasting at least one year, or for the rest of a person’s life, or recur (come and go).
‘Normal day-to-day activities‘ – these are the typical things that a person might do in a day. In the workplace this could be meeting with colleagues, using a computer, following instructions, keeping to a timetable or travelling to work.
If a person tells their employer that they have a disability, then the Equality Act 2010 requires the employer to make ‘reasonable adjustments‘ to enable the disabled person to do their job.
An employer may ask whether a person’s disability meets the definition of disability that is in the Equality Act 2010. Every person is an individual and not all people will be limited by their condition or disabled by the way the environment is set up around them.
It’s important that the employer discusses this with their employee so they can understand what additional needs that person may have and can put reasonable adjustments in place.
The Access to Work grant can sometimes help pay for adjustments that would cost money.