What is a Disability?

George Heron

George Heron

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Phone 01952 566918

13 April 2016

Employers have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled employees. Under the Equality Act 2010, a disability is defined as being “a physical or mental impairment”, which “has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on” the individual’s “ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

An impairment that fits these criteria will be considered a disability and the employer is therefore be obligated to make reasonable adjustments. The employee will also benefit from protection against unfavourable treatment arising in consequence of their disability. It is often the case that whether a condition is a disability will depend on the circumstances of the individual concerned.

There are, however, certain conditions which are ‘deemed disabilities’. These include cancer, HIV, MS and blindness. Employees with any of these conditions will be automatically considered disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act. Where one of these conditions is present, there is no requirement to meet the definition prescribed under the Act.

There are also various conditions which legislation expressly states are not impairments (and hence not disabilities). Interestingly, these include ‘tendency to set fires’ and ‘tendency to steal’, which is certainly reassuring!

At Alpha, we have a vast experience in providing bespoke, practical advice on HR and employment law issues. This includes advising clients on whether their employees, particularly those on long-term sickness absence, are disabled. We are proud of our commercial outlook and do not sit on the fence. If you would like to have Alpha on your side, please feel free to contact us.

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