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UK: Disability Discrimination & the Equality Act

For employers either based in the United Kingdom or with offices in the UK, the topic of disability discrimination and the Equality Act is nothing new. As everyone knows, the Act was introduced to provide clarity on the rights of individuals to ensure equal opportunities.

Having said that, the portion of the Act that refers to disability is still one that remains unclear to many. At a recent meeting with human resource, diversity and occupational health professionals based in the UK, it became clear that a reminder of some of the basic principles would be helpful such as:

• A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial long-terms adverse effect on the individual’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Should this come into question in the workplace, only an employment tribunal or higher court can make such a decision.
• The Act allows for a protected characteristic such as disability, to substitute a tie-breaker in a recruitment or promotion situation where two candidates are otherwise equally qualified.
• You cannot discriminate for associative disability, meaning because someone is associated with someone who is disabled such as an employee who has a child with disabilities.
• You cannot discriminate for perceptive disability, meaning because you believe someone to have a certain disability when that individual has a different disability or no disability at all.
• Pre-employment health questionnaires are no longer allowed though such questionnaires are allowed as a condition to employment post offer.

While many of these issues are similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the U.S., it is important for HR, diversity and OH or EEO professionals who have global oversight to understand the similarities and differences in each of the countries they operate and while thinking globally, to act locally.

Springboard offers services in over thirty countries to be sure to reach out to us for additional guidance and support on this most important topic (info@consultspringboard.com).


This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.