Who is covered by the disability discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010?

The legal duties in the Equality Act 2010 are owed by all employers (including police and armed forces), regardless of the size of the organisation.

All employees, former employees and job applicants are protected. So are contract workers, most freelance workers, temporary agency workers, casuals, apprentices, people on work experience training, partners and barristers.

The genuinely self-employed, that is, people who run their own business, trading at arms-length with their own clients and customers to sell them goods or services, are not protected by the ‘Employment’ sections of the Equality Act 2010.
Only genuinely self-employed people, in business on their own account freely offering goods and services to their own clients and customers, are excluded. Take advice if you are uncertain.

For example in one case, a GP who also provided services as a hair restoration surgeon under contract to a company that offered hair restoration services to its own customers was a “worker” (entitled, for example, to holiday pay and protection from discrimination) when providing those services. 

In another example, a plumber was a worker when he provided services to the customers and clients of a plumbing company, even though he was also legally entitled to pay tax and national insurance on a self-employed basis. He was integrated into the plumbing company and held out by it as a member of its workforce. The Supreme Court ruled that he was a worker entitled to bring a claim for disability discrimination.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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