What is Section 15 of the Equality Act 2010?
It’s always important to know where you stand; whether in life or, in a legal situation, with people. We are still regularly finding that clients are being caught out by Section 15 of the Equality Act 2010 aka The Disability Discrimination Act.
Here is what it says (bear with me a minute – this is important and could save you in the long run!):
A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B’s disability; and
A cannot show that the treatment is a proportion of means of achieving a legitimate aim
In the Equality Human Rights Commission Employment Statutory Code of Practice (https://www.
- An employer dismisses a worker because she has had three months’ sick leave. The employer is aware that the worker has multiple sclerosis and most of her sick leave is disability-related. The employer’s decision to dismiss is not because of the worker’s disability itself (so not direct discrimination). However, the worker has been treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of her disability (namely, the need to take a period of disability-related sick leave). (Paragraph 5.3, EHRC Code.)
What is Meant by Discrimination ‘Arising from’ Disability
“Arising from…” can easily be missed. The second example given in the code shows this:
- A woman is disciplined for losing her temper at work. However, this behaviour was out of character and is a result of severe pain caused by cancer, of which her employer is aware. The disciplinary action is unfavourable treatment. This treatment is because of something which arises in consequence of the worker’s disability, namely her loss of temper. There is a connection between the ‘something’ (that is, the loss of temper) that led to the treatment and her disability. It will be discrimination arising from disability if the employer cannot objectively justify the decision to discipline the worker. (Paragraph 5.9, EHRC Code.)
What is “Objectively Justified” or a “Proportionate Means of Achieving a Legitimate Aim”?
A legitimate aim is the reason behind your decision. It must be genuine. Proportionate means the action must be appropriate and necessary in the circumstance.
Example of Disability Discrimination in the Workplace
For example – dismissing a lorry driver who becomes blind might be objectively justified, as it is necessary for the safety of the driver as well as others on the road. Therefore, it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
In summary, if you are an employer, be courteous and careful at all times, and remember: disabled employees may also be protected from consequences arising from…
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