The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
Much of the provisions relating to employment of disabled persons came into force on 1st December 1998.
As from 1st October 2004, The Act also applied to businesses with less than 15 employees.
It also applies to prison officers, firefighters, police officers, people working on board ships, aircraft and hovercraft, barristers (including advocates in Scotland) and partners in business partnerships.
The Act also includes permanent, temporary and contract workers, as well as full-time employees. It covers any employees or potential employees with a "physical or mental impairment", which has long term effects on their ability to carry out day to day tasks. It also covers people who have had a disability in the past. ("Long term effect" is taken to be at least 12 months.)
Employers must not discriminate against an employee (whether they are actually employed or could be employed in the future) with a disability or who has had a disability in the past. This includes ensuring that the interview and selection process, the practises and rules and the premises of the employer do not put a disabled person at a disadvantage as compared to a person without a disability. This also includes promotion opportunities, training, pensions and other benefits.
Other responsibilities an employer will have to a disabled employee include providing supervision, modifying instructions or reference manuals so that they are for example in large print or braille, allowing absences from work/rehabilitation related to an employee's disability, modifying or purchasing new equipment to meet a disabled employee's needs.
Any such adjustments must be reasonable bearing in mind, amongst other things, the cost to the employer, the disruption it will cause and the effectiveness it will have in removing or preventing any disadvantage to the disabled employee.
Any employees who believe that they have been the subject of discrimination can apply to an Employment Tribunal within 3 months of the date of the discrimination.
The Employment Tribunal can:
1. Make a declaration about the rights of the disabled employee.
2. Order the employer to pay compensation to the disabled employee.
3. Recommend that the employer take reasonable action within a certain period of time to prevent or reduce any disadvantage to the disabled person or to make reasonable adjustment.
On 1st October 1999 Part 3 of the Discrimination Act came into force.
Amongst other things this part of the Act relates to adjustments service providers have to make to ensure access by disabled people to their services. This includes, for example, providing poor sighted people with information in large print, braille or tape or hard of hearing people with written information or providing wheelchair access and allowing guide dogs onto premises.
This also means that government and public service web sites must provide content in a format that can be read by those with poor sight, a good example of this is the BBC which has spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that their web sites can be re-formatted and displayed in larger fonts.
A discriminatory act will not be unlawful if it is done in pursuance of an Act of Parliament or to safeguard national security. Charities are also allowed to discriminate in pursuance of their charitable activities, if those are connected with disability, for example, treating a particular group of disabled workers more favourably than others.