05. Your Right to Fair Treatment

This section is divided into two parts.

[a] How does the law help disabled people?

[b] Equality duties

[a] How does the law help disabled people?

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination on many grounds. Disability is one of the main reasons mentioned in the law.

The following things are unlawful.

1) Direct discrimination. This is when someone treats you less favourably than another person because of a characteristic you have, e.g. your disability.

2) Indirect discrimination. This is when a rule or practice applies to everyone but it particularly disadvantages certain groups, e.g. people from ethnic minorities or disabled people.

3) Harassment. This is offensive or intimidating behavior which aims at humiliating or harming you.

4) Discrimination by association. This means you are being discriminated against or harassed because you have an association with a disabled person.

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What does 'disability' mean here?

A disability is any long-term physical or mental condition which makes it difficult for you to carry out day to day activities. For example, this could be the mobility to walk, or a significant learning disability, or an enduring or recurring mental health problem.

Example 1. Fiona has a mild learning disability and also suffers from clinical depression, which affects her from time to time although she does have long spells when she feels ok.

Both the effects of her learning disability and her mental state when she is depressed make it difficult for her to carry out her daily tasks without help. She is disabled as defined by the Equality Act, even though her needs may not be enough to qualify for help from social services.

What does the law cover?

The Equality Act covers things like:

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The provision of goods and services

When the law talks about accessing services it means everyday things like councils, doctor's surgeries, pubs, theatres, voluntary groups, hairdressers etc.

People running these services will break the law if they treat disabled people less favourably because of their disability. They must not indirectly discriminate against a disabled person unless there is a clear and justifiable reason for doing so.

Providers also have to make reasonable adjustments in the way they deliver their services so that disabled people are not put at any substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people when accessing the service.

Example 2. Tony has Tourette's syndrome and regularly shouts out inappropriately. He wants to buy a ticket for the theatre but is refused because his behavior will spoil the show for others. Tony tells them they should provide a special booth for him so he can watch but not be heard.

The theatre manager refuses this idea because it would cost a lot of money, use up a whole box and would rarely be used.

The theatre is acting within the law. This is a situation when the law allows them to discriminate. Tony's idea would be unlikely to be considered a reasonable adjustment because of the cost compared to the theatre's low takings.

What can you do if you feel you are suffering discrimination?

1) You can discuss this with the service provider and complain to them if you feel they are not helpful
2) You can get further advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) or from a local advice service such as the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB),

► Equality and Human Rights Commission

► Citizens Advice Bureau

3) You can sue the service provider in the County Court for any actual loss you have been put to because of the discrimination and for your hurt feelings. You can make a money claim on-line, and this is cheaper than using the actual court. You can check the HM Courts Service website for information on fees, claim forms and claiming on-line.

► HM Courts Service Money Claim Online

Court claims are, however, complicated and you may need extra help. See Rights to Legal Help and Legal Aid in section 06. of this guide.

► 06. Your Right to Protection and Liberty

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It is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled people.

These rules cover most employment issues, from application forms right through to dismissal or redundancy.

Example 3. A company holds their job interviews on the fifth floor of their office building which has no lift . They refuse to offer interviews to people who cannot get to the interview room unaided.

This would be indirect discrimination as people whose disability affects their ability to climb stairs would not be considered.

As well as it being unlawful to discriminate against disabled workers, employers also have to make reasonable changes to work practices so that disabled applicants are not disadvantaged.

Example 4. The company in example 3 changes their application form to ask if applicants have any special needs for their interview.

If any say that they cannot manage stairs, an accessible room on the ground floor is booked for their interview. This would be a reasonable adjustment.

These reasonable adjustments can be changes to the physical aspects of the workplace, adjustments to working time patterns, providing adapted equipment etc.

What can you do if you feel your employer is not treating you fairly?

1) You should get advice to check whether the treatment is unfair discrimination
2) You can contact EHRC or a local information source, e.g. CAB

► Equality and Human Rights Commission

► Citizens Advice Bureau

3) You can lodge a claim at an Employment Tribunal after getting advice from ACAS, the arbitration and conciliation service or from your union if you are member.


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Schools, colleges or other education providers cannot treat disabled students less fairly because of their disability.

Education providers must also make reasonable adjustments to make sure that disabled students aren't discriminated against.

These adjustments include things like changes to physical features, changes to how learners are assessed etc. However schools are not expected to change their premises. Providing extra support such as specialist teachers or equipment is an obligation that will happen at a later date.

The Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) and Local Education Authorities (LEAs) are responsible for meeting the cost of full-time education for people up to the age of 19.

If the YPLA decides that your needs can only be met by going to a specialist residential college it has a duty to fund your place.

► Young Peoples' Learning Agency

If you have a statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) your LEA must work with social services as part of your Transition Plan when you approach leaving school.

For more information about how to appeal against the refusal to make a SEN or what a SEN says see the Special Educational Needs and Disability guidance on the website for the justice system.

► Special Educational Needs and Disability

The SEN Code of Practice is available through the Department of Education's website.

► SEN Code of Practice


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It is usually against the law for landlords and agents to discriminate against disabled people either by refusing to deal with them or by refusing to make reasonable adjustments

These matters are covered in more detail in the section 01. Your Right to Housing.

► 01. Your Right to Housing


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Social and health care

The law gives disabled people rights of access to health and social services premises.

A doctor should not refuse to register you or continue treating you because you have a disability.

These matters are covered in more detail in section 02. Your Right to Social and Health Care.

► 02. Your Right to Social and Health Care

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[b] Equality duties

The law says that the public sector has a general duty to promote equality amongst citizens and must have regard to these three ways of working:

1) Eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimization
2) Advancing equality of opportunity between different groups
3) Fostering good relations between groups

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What is the 'public sector'?

This covers bodies such as

It also covers any body which carries out a public function. This is important because many functions are contracted out or passed on to other commercial or voluntary organizations, which can make them a public body for Equality Duty purposes.

Example 5. In a legal case (R(Weaver) v London Quadrant Housing Association, the association evicted a tenant using a quick legal procedure.

The tenant complained and the court decided that although the association was not a council, they were helping a council with their re-housing duties and so were acting as a public body. This meant they had to make sure they worked according to these Equality Duties.

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What can I do if I feel a public body isn't helping me?

If you feel you are being discriminated against you can take action by going through the body's complaints process and then going on to the appropriate Ombudsman or the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

If you feel the body's policies are of no help to people with disabilities you can bring this up directly with the organisation concerned. Large bodies, central government departments and councils often have people working as Equalities Officers and are the best people to contact.

If the organisation is smaller you can contact their Chief Executive or people on their committee if you want to ask how they are meeting their duties under the law.

► The Ombudsman

Call the Ombudsman on 0345 015 4033.

► Equality and Human Rights Commission

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Human Rights

The Convention of Human Rights gives everyone basic rights, regardless of their age or disability. Human Rights laws have to be followed by public bodies and those organizations which carry out public functions.

Human Rights law means that people working for the government or the council have to act within the law when they deal with you.

Most of the rights under law are not absolute. They can be taken away from you if the circumstances allow it.

Your rights under the law are:

Many of these rights are not so simple in practice as they might sound on paper.

Example 6. The right to a fair trial does not mean that you can automatically get legal aid.

The right to education means that you have a right to access the education system as its exists, not that you have a right to a tailor-made education that suits you.

The two useful rights for that have already helped people with learning disability are,

1) The Right to Liberty and Security - this is covered in the Section 06. Your Right to Protection and Liberty and
2) The Right to Respect for your Private and Family Life

► 06. Your Right to Protection and Liberty

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Respect for your private and family life

You have a right to have your private life and to enjoy your family relationships without interference from any government or local government departments.

This means you have the right to carry on your life privately, without government interference, as long as you respect the rights of other people.

'Private life' covers a lot of things, - your lifestyle, the way you dress and look, your sexual identity etc. It also includes the right to develop your personality and to develop friendships and relationships.

In some circumstances public authorities may need to take steps to help you realize your right to a private life.

It also means that personal information about you should be kept securely and not used without your permission except in certain specified circumstances. For more on this, see section 06. Your Right to Protection and Liberty.

► 06. Your Right to Protection and Liberty

Example 7. Mr G was a 19 year old with learning disabilities who exhibited challenging behaviour. He lived with his foster mother who was his full-time carer. Social services placed him in a care home after concerns about his behavior at college, and later arranged for him to go into a supported housing scheme. His foster mother had not been allowed to have much contact with him during this time.

The foster mother went to court to complain, and the court said that the council has abused Mr G's human rights because they had not respected his family life.

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What can I do if i feel my rights have been ignored?

If you need general advice you can contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission

► Equality and Human Rights Commission

For ways of getting other legal help either through free advice services or through solicitors see Rights to Legal Help and Legal Aid in section 06. of this guide.

► 06. Your Right to Protection and Liberty

You can also call the Office of the Public Guardian on 0300 456 0300 or email customerservices@publicguardian.gsi.gov.uk.

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