If you think of someone with a disability you may have a preconceived idea of what that means and what it looks like. Many of us probably think of someone in a wheelchair or with an illness that is both serious and obvious.
I was surprised to learn recently that being an alcoholic is not a disability for the purposes of employment law. On the other hand I wasn’t surprised that my colleague who was updating my team on the latest developments in disability discrimination looked at me when she shared that piece of information! Considering none of my team network with me, my reputation for drinking obviously precedes me!
Another surprising fact was that mental health issues form a very small proportion of disability discrimination act claims, but it is believed that a staggering one in three employees will suffer from mental illness during their working life – and probably that figure will increase as a result of the lockdown. Given that there were 13 of us on the talk, that means that statistically, at least 4 of us will be affected- but no one dared look at me! The obvious explanation for the disparity between people suffering and people claiming is that mental health is something that is not taken as seriously physical impairments. What may not be obvious is that, apparently, if you are suffering from mental health problems, you may recover quicker if you carry on working. Apparently being around other people, and having something to focus on is beneficial.
The penultimate surprise of the day was that being born without a womb is NOT a disability. I’m sure the poor woman in question, who was unable to have children, would disagree, but when she wanted to adopt a child, and argued that her physical impairment meant that she was disabled because she could not give birth to her own children, the Tribunal disagreed. So whilst it may amount to a disability in some contexts, from an employment law point of view it did not.
Saving the best until last – the final surprise was that none of my few colleagues who were in the office ate the cakes and biscuits I’d supplied for the talk! More for me!!!!!
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Free cake with every meeting whilst stocks last.