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United Kingdom (UK) - Disability

In the United Kingdom a physical or mental impairment is considered to be a disability if it is substantial or long-term to the point that it has a negative effect on day to day activities. ‘Substantial’ is defined by a task taking longer than it normally would; ‘long-term’ is considered to mean anything lasting more than twelve months. All definitions of disability are listed under the Equality Act of 2010 and Disability Discrimination Acts of 2010 and 1995. The United Nations has also laid out information on disabilities for its members, including treatment and equality guidelines. Employers have to adhere to the Equality Act 2010 with regards to what is or is not considered a disability.

An employer can ask if a person has any disability that might make it more difficult to complete a job. The question is not meant to be discriminatory, but is a way to assess whether someone would need special considerations to complete a job. However, such questions can be viewed as discriminatory if they mean that the person will not be offered employment. Whilst there are laws in place to prevent such discrimination, it does still exist in the UK.

If a question does not seem appropriate during an interview and someone suffers from a disability they can lodge a complaint or refuse to answer. Questions during interviews are to ascertain whether a person can reasonably perform the work required of them in order to help the company conduct business. The disability discrimination laws that cover UK residents will also cover any foreigner who is in the United Kingdom for work or education.

If a company hires a person with a disability, they are required to make reasonable changes in order to accommodate the person such as special working hours, special equipment or anything else that can be considered necessary but not unreasonable.

In a school/university setting, the laws are very clear that a provider or school cannot treat anyone with a disability unfairly. This includes both direct and indirect discrimination. Education providers are also required to make reasonable adjustments in order to accommodate people disabilities.

The disability welfare system is undergoing a transition in the United Kingdom. Payment changes have been proposed in recent years, however most of these changes have yet to be rolled out. News sites such as the BBC have been alive with discussions on disability and how the disabled are viewed.

A study by HM Office for Disability Services suggests that 1 out of 20 individuals with disabilities feel that there are significant barriers, and that their disability stops them from living a full life. Those who say their disability is an issue are often those who do not work, are older, or have more than one disability.

Disparaging posts on social networking sites have at times sparked outrage from parents of disabled children, as well as from those with a disability. Such posts are usually removed once a company is made aware of them. The BBC is currently trying to increase awareness regarding what it means to have a disability, and to demonstrate that there are plenty of individuals who can and do work despite their limitations.

Organisations to Help with Disability Issues

Some of the locations listed below allow you to file a complaint, while others will help with legal representation should a court proceeding need to occur.

Health and Safety Executive

The HSE is an authority for any discrimination in the workplace including disabilities and should be contacted if there is a complaint.

EASS - Equality Advisory Support Service

Answers questions on the Equality Act 2010 and provides professional advisors and legal advice if it is needed.

+44(0) 808 800 0082

Disability Rights UK

This website provides a handbook, a listing of rights, and membership for those who have a disability.

Advice Now

Advice Now provides answers to many different questions regarding laws and rights, including disability issues.

Citizens’ Advice

A charity organisation, Citizens’ Advice offers free advice to individuals with legal, financial, or health issues.

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