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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Employment rights and the Equality Act 2010

Disabled workers share the same general employment rights as other workers. However, there are also some special rights for disabled people under the Equality Act 2010. Learn more about your rights and the Equality Act 2010.

Employers and the Equality Act 2010

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled people. The disability parts of the act cover:

  • application forms
  • interview arrangements
  • aptitude or proficiency tests
  • job offers
  • terms of employment including pay
  • promotion, transfer and training opportunities
  • work-related benefits such as access to recreation or refreshment facilities
  • dismissal or redundancy
  • discipline and grievances

An employer must also make reasonable changes to applications, interviews and work so that you are not disadvantaged. These are known as ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Under the Equality Act 2010, an employer must not:

  • treat a disabled person less favourably because the person has a disability - this is known as 'direct discrimination'
  • indirectly discriminate against a disabled person, unless there is a fair and balanced reason for this
  • directly discriminate against, or harass a person because they are associated with a disabled person
  • directly discriminate against or harass a person who is wrongly thought to be disabled
  • victimise anyone

Victimisation might arise because the person has taken, or is believed likely to take action under the act. For example, making a complaint or taking a case to a tribunal or court. Or it might be because they have helped somebody to make a complaint or to take other action.

Your employer must not treat a disabled person less favourably because of something connected with the person’s disability. Unless there is a fair and balanced reason. For this form of discrimination the employer must know or should reasonably have been expected to know that the person is disabled.

These rights do not just apply to employment. The Equality Act covers other forms of work like partnerships, contract work, or holding an office like a director of a business.

Reasonable adjustments in the workplace

Under the Equality Act 2010 an employer has a duty to make reasonable changes for disabled applicants and employees. These are know as 'reasonable adjustments'. Adjustments should be made to avoid you being put at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.

The need to make reasonable adjustments can apply to the working arrangements or any physical aspects of the workplace. For example, adjusting your working hours or providing you with an adapted piece of equipment to help you to do the job. Physical adjustments might include replacing steps with a ramp.

Also, if it is reasonable, the employer needs to provide an extra aid to ensure the disabled worker is not disadvantaged. This might mean providing special or adapted equipment to do the job.

Recruiting new employees

The Equality Act 2010 limits when a person recruiting for work may make enquiries about a job applicant’s health or disability. For more information see the 'Recruitment questions about health and disability' page.


An employer cannot select you for redundancy just because you are disabled.

The criteria used to select people for redundancy must not put disabled people at a disadvantage, unless there is a fair and balanced reason.

The employer must make reasonable adjustments to any criteria used to select employees for redundancies. For example, it could be a reasonable adjustment for the employer to discount disability-related sickness absence when using attendance as one basis for selection.

If the employer knows, or should know that you are disabled, they should not treat you unfavourably because of something connected with your disability. If they do, they would have to show there is a fair and balanced reason for this. Something connected with a disability might be having to work flexible hours or taking time off for disability-related sickness.

If your employer is consulting about any future redundancies, they should take reasonable steps to make sure you are included in the consultations.

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a good source of advice if you feel you may have been discriminated against at work or elsewhere. It can also help if you think you have been discriminated against and want to lodge a claim at an employment tribunal.

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