Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share

The Equality Act

Disabled people should have freedom, dignity, choice and control over their lives. We want to remove the barriers that stop people from enjoying equal access to full citizenship.

In Scotland, responsibility for issues that affect disabled people are split between issues reserved to the UK Government, and areas that the Scottish Government are responsible for.

The Scottish Government are responsible for most public services including: local councils, education, housing, social work and the NHS in Scotland. However, employment law - including provisions within the Equality Act - is reserved to the UK Government.

The Equality Act (2010) is the main piece of legislation that addresses discrimination and inequality in the UK. The following are the characteristics which are protected under the Equality Act (2010):

  1. Age
  2. Disability
  3. Gender reassignment
  4. Marriage and civil partnership
  5. Pregnancy and maternity
  6. Race
  7. Religion or belief
  8. Sex
  9. Sexual orientation

The law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination relating to any of these protected characteristics and individuals who feel they have been discriminated against on any of the above grounds can bring an action in court against the perpetrator. The law also prohibits victimisation of persons who have brought action against a perpetrator or given evidence in connection with proceedings under the Act.

The Act prohibits discrimination across a broad range of areas including employment, the provision of goods and services to the public and the exercise of public functions. The UK Government is responsible for equality legislation including the Equality Act.

Importantly for employers, The Act specifies that  all employers in the UK have a legal duty to implement reasonable adjustments in the workplace for disabled employees. Under the legislation, employers must make reasonable adjustments where disabled staff would otherwise be put at a substantial disadvantage compared with non-disabled colleagues. Reasonable adjustments in the workplace can include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical adaptations to help disabled employees do their job (e.g. the installation of a ramp or accessible toilet, the provision of large screens or assistive software to help people with sensory impairments access information on screen, or the installation of a hearing loop in the building);
  • Working pattern adaptations (e.g. offering a flexible working arrangement, or offering part-time or reduced hours contracts);
  • Human support in the workplace (e.g. the provision of a personal assistant, making BSL interpreters available for meetings, or providing a job coach); and
  • Transport support, both in the workplace and to and from work (e.g. paying taxi costs or funding a driver).

The extra costs of employing a disabled person, including those outlined above, may be able to be met with an Access to Work grant from the Department for Work and Pensions (see section 7).

Employers also have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments during the recruitment of new employees. Information and guidance on Reasonable Adjustments for employees and employers can be found on the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS) website or in the  EHRC Guidance for employers about their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010.

[go to Disabled People in the Workplace]