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  • Writer's pictureSunrock

Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

The Facts

  • It is against the law for employers to discriminate against anyone because of their disability.

  • There are nearly 14 million disabled people in the UK, which is the equivalent of 1 in 5 people.

  • Every employee is unique.

  • Not all disabilities are visible.

The Equality Act 2010 protects a disabled person from discrimination in the workplace and covers areas ranging from the recruitment process to dismissal. An employer is responsible for and also expected to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ throughout the employment cycle to avoid disadvantaging a disabled person. There are three main categories of disability discrimination that can occur in the workplace which includes direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and harassment.

Direct Discrimination

This happens when a disabled person is treated different and less favourable than a person who is not disabled. For example, you may not get a place on a training course because your employer assumes it would be difficult for you to get there. Moreover, direct discrimination can breakdown into three types:

Ordinary direct discrimination is where someone is treated less favourable due to their disability.

Direct discrimination by perception happens when someone is perceived to have a disability.

Direct discrimination by association is when someone is directly discriminated against for their association with someone disabled.

Indirect discrimination

  • This happens when a workplace process or rule inadvertently disadvantages those who are disabled. For example, someone may be indirectly discriminated against if some services at work are inaccessible to them. However, in some circumstances indirect discrimination may be justified, for example, an employer may reject an applicant with a severe back problem where heavy lifting is an essential part of the job.


  • Harassment is unlawful whether it is on grounds of your disability or something related to your disability. It can even include offensive remarks made about your disability by a colleague or employer.

What can I do as a recruiter or employer?

Address the misconceptions of hiring those with disabilities:

  • Accommodating for employees may seem high, however, it could be a one-time expenditure that increases the business’ opportunity of hiring more people with disabilities later on.

  • Job modifications might not always be necessary when hiring those with disabilities. With work from home becoming more of the norm nowadays, this increases accessibility for those with disabilities. Additionally, some people with disabilities can still manage to work like everyone else, for example, if they are in a wheelchair, they could file electronic documents rather than physical ones.

Implement company-wide training on disability inclusion:

  • Talk to your co-workers and those with disabilities to engage a better understanding of their needs and difficulties they may face.

  • Outsource the training – Disability Rights UK are a registered charity with expert trainers with over 25 years of experience in the disability and equality field and offer training over Zoom.

Create a recruitment process with necessary adjustments:

  • Design a recruitment process that accommodates those who are disabled and require assistance.

  • Design a recruitment process that is free of unconscious bias – this can ensure that you are shortlisting a decision without knowing whether the candidate has a disability.

  • Explore how you can accommodate disabled candidate once they have been shortlisted to make the transition into the job easier.

Remember inclusivity can be great for business!

  • It provides access to a better talent pool.

  • Can attract a larger customer base as those with disabilities will have a better chance of sympathising with customers or clients who face similar circumstances.

  • It boosts productivity and creativity. Having different people involved in the problem-solving process can lead to innovations and solutions that will increase the overall profitability of your business. For example, an employee with a disability might come up with ideas on how to make your products/services more inclusive.

If you enjoyed this week's blog, then you may also want to read some of our other posts including talent is skin deep, overcoming resistance to diversification and women in senior energy positions.

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