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I think I am suffering disability discrimination at work. What can I do?
The disability discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010 make it unlawful for organisations to discriminate against workers and job applicants for reasons relating to their disability. Both mental and physical impairments are covered.
The statutory definition of disability is quite complicated, but there are many specialist charities who will be able to help you find out whether you are protected. The TUC and individual unions also publish online guides to help you.
It is against the law for your employer to discriminate against you because of your disability. Discriminatory behaviour might include, for example:
- being shouted at;
- being called derogatory names;
- being denied certain benefits;
- being overlooked for promotion/training;
- being bullied; and
- an employer’s failure to make 'reasonable adjustments'.
Find out whether your employer has a policy about disability discrimination at work, what it says, and how you might go about raising such issues with management.
Make sure you make a note of the behaviour you believe to be discriminatory, when it took place and by whom.
Consider talking to work colleagues who you believe may be suffering from similar behaviour. It might be that you can approach the problem together.
If you are a member of a trade union, talk to your union representative. Unions are expert at combating disability discrimination at work.
If you feel confident enough, you might wish to talk to the individual(s) you believe is/are being discriminatory. Explain your feelings and ask them to change their behaviour.
If the behaviour persists, whether you have spoken to the culprits or not, you may have to follow your organisation's policy on disability discrimination. If your organisation does not have a specific policy you may have to use your organisation's grievance procedure. You have a legal right to be accompanied at such a meeting.
If you're thinking of bringing a claim of disability discrimination to an employment tribunal, you should normally use the grievance procedure first. Before contacting the employment tribunal, you need to submit an Acas Early Conciliation Notification Form to Acas. You can find out more about Acas early conciliation here. It is no longer possible to make a claim in the employment tribunal unless you have first contacted Acas. A tribunal claim needs to be made within the specified time limit, usually within three months of the action about which you are complaining.
Discrimination law is complex and you should take advice at an early stage. If you are not a union member, you might want to talk to a solicitor (there might be a charge for this), your local Citizens Advice or Law Centre, Acas (tel: 0300 123 1100), the Equality Advisory and Support Service (0808 800 0082) or a specialist disability charity.