As an employer, it’s vital you have a grasp on the legislation which affects equality in the workplace for people with disabilities. We’ve summarised the key bits of legislation below and provided links to more detailed explorations.
Just click the sections below to have further information drop down.
Disclaimer This information is not comprehensive but is simply a summary for readers. It is not, and should not be taken as, a legal interpretation of the Acts.
One of the most significant pieces of legislation to be enacted in recent years is the Employment Equality Act (EEA) (1998). The Employment Equality Act 1998 was recently amended by the Equality Act 2004; together they are known as the Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004. The purpose of the act is to promote equality and positive action and to prohibit direct and indirect discrimination across nine distinct grounds, including disability. The act requires appropriate measures for people with disabilities in relation to access, participation and training in employment.
Under the Act, discrimination is described as:
"…the treatment of a person in a less favourable way than another person is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on any of the nine grounds"
The aspects of employment covered in the act include:
- Equal Pay
- Access to employment, training and work experience
- Terms and conditions of employment
- Promotion, re-grading and classification of posts
The EEA also states that an employer:
"…shall do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person who has a disability by providing special treatment or facilities…"
The act therefore places an onus on employers to ‘reasonable accommodate’ people with disabilities when accessing employment, in the participation or advancement within employment and in accessing training. However there is a provision which states that accommodations for employees should not give rise to more than a ‘nominal cost’ for the employer. In 2004 The Equality act made amendments to the 1998 act and the nominal cost issue was revised so that an employer could only now refuse to provide facilities for disabled workers if doing so would entail a ‘disproportionate burden’.
What constitutes a disproportionate burden in relation to reasonable accommodations depends on the size and resources of the employer while also taking account of grants or public funding that may be available.
Is there an easy-to-read version of the Acts available?
Where can I find out more information?
Equality legislation now covers employment and the provision of goods and services, including education. The Equal Status Act 2000 was recently amended by the Equality Act 2004; together they are known as the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004. Their main aim is to promote equality by prohibiting discrimination on nine grounds including disability, in employment, vocational training, advertising, collective agreements and the provision of goods and services. People who provide services to the public (e.g. recreational services, transport or travel services, banking services etc) cannot discriminate on any of the nine grounds outlined in the legislation. It also has provisions for the attaining of reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in the provision of goods and services.