There are difference types of discrimination covered in the Equality Act which may affect you or the person you are caring for.
Direct discrimination is where someone with a protected characteristic such as a disability is treated less favourably than someone else in the same situation who does not share the protected characteristic.
For example, you go with your friends to a nightclub only to be told wheelchair users cannot come in and you are turned away, while your friends who are not disabled are allowed in. You have been treated less favourably than your friends who are not disabled.
This is where there is a general rule, criteria or practice that applies to everyone but in practice it particularly disadvantages people with certain protected characteristics.
For example, you book a taxi to take you and your guide dog to the train station. The taxi arrives and refuses to take you because the company has a rule of no dogs in company cars. Everyone who owns a dog has that rule applying to them but it disadvantages you because you need your guide dog due to your visual impairment.
Discrimination arising from a disability
This is where someone with a disability is treated unfairly based on something connected to their disability rather than the disability itself.
For example, you have had a stroke which affects your speech (slurring your words). You go to a bar and they refuse to serve you believing you to be too drunk already due to your speech impairment..
Discrimination by association
This is where someone is treated less favourably because of their link or association with the protected characteristic of someone else (such as a carer’s link to the disabled person they are looking after).
For example you have been subject to disciplinary proceedings at work as you have had to take time off to care for your mother. Others who have had similar amounts of time off (not for caring) have not been disciplined.
Failure to make reasonable adjustments
Employers and service providers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments if they place disabled people at a substantial disadvantage because of one of the following:
- A provision, criterion or practice;
- A physical feature;
- The lack of the provision of an auxiliary aid or service;
Adjustments can include changes to the above, but whether or not there is a duty to make them depends on whether this would be “reasonable”, giving consideration to factors such as the following:
- Effectiveness of the adjustment to ending the substantial disadvantage;
- Practicality of the adjustment;
- Extent of the disruption caused;
- Extent of available resources;
- Factors relevant to specific sector.
For example, an organisation has a policy that only senior managers can park in an office car park. An office worker has multiple sclerosis and needs access close to the office due to lack of mobility but cannot park in the car park because of the policy. The reasonable adjustment would be to allow him to park in the office car park, as it would cause the least disruption, would remove the disadvantage and be the most practical solution.
Harassment and victimisation
The Equality Act also protects you and the person you are looking after from employers or service providers harassing you about a protected characteristic and from being treated badly for exercising your rights under the Act.
Harassment could include offensive jokes or language, unfair expectations, pressuring or intimidating behaviour and unwanted or patronising assistance.
If you think you may have been the victim of discrimination or harassment you can get free, confidential advice and support from the following organisations: