20 October, 2008
All businesses should now be aware that their employees may be able to claim disability discrimination even if they have no disability themselves. This claim can now be made as a result of associative discrimination, following a recent high profile case.
In this particular case an employee brought a claim of disability discrimination against her ex-employer on the grounds that she had been discriminated against because of her son's disability. Amongst her claims of unfair treatment were that she was not permitted time off to care for her son , even though other employees were allowed to do so to care for non-disabled children (and was described as 'lazy' for requesting this); and that she was threatened with dismissal when she arrived late due to problems related to her son's condition.. It was claimed that her employer's actions had created a hostile environment which forced her to resign.
It has been made clear that it is possible to discriminate by association but it is still questionable as to whether this has been fully incorporated into domestic UK law.
Employers are advised to be very careful when considering requests for flexible working arrangements from employees who have caring responsibility for disabled or elderly people and to check their recruitment and equal opportunity policies in the light of this decision.