The fact that disability discrimination, at work or anywhere else is an unlawful offence is the result of a number of pieces of legislation passed by the UK parliament. These various disability acts and discrimination acts have now been coalesced into the giant Equality Act 2010.
The Equality Act 2010 now forms the basis of any legal advice given by solicitors and other legal professionals given to people who feel they may have suffered disability discrimination.
We will begin our brief of the Equality Act by looking at its direct predecessor, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This will not only give us a little further in understanding the central tenants that have run through government policy, but will also reflect the way that laws in the UK evolve over time to suit new situations.
Disability Discrimination Act 1995
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which has now been essentially replaced by the Equality Act 2010 (except in Northern Ireland), was the first time that it was a made an unlawful offence to discriminate against someone on the grounds of them having a disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 set the precedent for further anti-disability discrimination legislation by enforcing the difference between other forms of discrimination (such as racial or sexual) and disability discrimination. In the former cases the unlawful act was either direct or indirect discrimination, whereas disability discrimination was built upon the ideas of:
- Failures to make reasonable adjustments
- Less favourable treatment of an individual due to their disability
The idea of reasonable adjustments was really the thing that made the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 different from all that had gone before it. The idea that it could be an offence not to take active steps to remove barriers that hindered disabled persons’ options in life, such as putting in ramps or presenting information in alternative forms, was fairly revolutionary.
The other main achievements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 were to legislate so that service providers were legally obligated to treat disabled people the same as anyone else when providing a service to them.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 had the primary purpose of bringing together the different strands of disparate discrimination legislation that previously created a confused and complicated system. The act brought together the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and a number of other statutes relating to employment rights.
The Equality Act 2010 broadly requires equal access for any individual to employment, public services and private services regardless of their age, ability, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.
Disability discrimination and the Equality Act 2010
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was replaced by the Equality Act, although the latter did not stray from the foundations laid down in the former. The act works to protect disable d people in the areas of education, employment, access to goods and services, access to housing and the functions of public bodies.
The Equality Act 2010 should be consulted by people who had ant-discrimination rights under previous legislature because those rights will have either changed, stayed the same or been extended. It is also possible that people will have been granted new rights relating disability discrimination as a result if the act.
The Equality Act 2010 provides a firm legal backing for anyone who believe s that they have been the victim of disability discrimination. The first step is to always contact the person who has committed the offence and explain what is being alleged. After this, legal advice may be sought if the situation is not resolved.