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A general guide on how you are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act and what your rights are.
It is possible that you have experienced discrimination in more than one way.
Direct discrimination is when you are treated worse than someone else because you have a disability. You have to show that there is a link between your disability and the way you have been treated, which can be difficult. However, you don’t always have to provide an example of a particular non-disabled person who was treated better than you if it is clear from all the circumstances that your disability was the reason why you were treated as you were.
Discrimination by association: you may be treated worse because of your connection or association with another person with a disability, even if you don’t have a disability yourself.
Discrimination by perception: you can also be treated worse because a person or organisation believes you do have a disability when you don’t.
This is where you are treated badly not because of your disability but because of something that happens because of your disability.
Unlike direct discrimination, there is no need for you to compare yourself with anyone else. You just have to show that you were treated badly, and this treatment was linked to your disability.
You don’t need to show that the person who treated you badly was aware that the behaviour was due to your disability, but they do need to be aware that you have a disability.
Indirect discrimination is where:
For indirect discrimination, it doesn't matter whether the person or organisation knew about your disability. This means they have to plan in advance and think about how their policies and practices may affect people with mental health problems.
But it is not indirect discrimination if the person or organisation can show these practices and arrangements were justified.
Harassment is behaviour from others that you don’t want, that:
Victimisation is when an employer or organisation puts you at a disadvantage just because:
The Equality Act says that employers and service providers should think about making reasonable adjustments (in other words, changes), if you are at a substantial disadvantage compared to other people who do not have a mental health problem.
Reasonable adjustments include:
You cannot be asked to pay for the cost of reasonable adjustments. If a person or organisation does not make reasonable adjustments when it would have been reasonable to do, this will be unlawful discrimination.
To find out more, see our pages on asking for reasonable adjustments from:
'Disability' has a special legal meaning under the Equality Act, which is broader than the usual way you might understand the word. The Equality Act says that you have a disability if you have an impairment that is either physical or mental and the impairment has a substantial, adverse and long term effect on your normal daily activities.See our full list of legal terms.
There are many situations in which you may feel treated unfairly because of your disability, but the law only covers these types of discrimination:
In the UK, law that protects you from discrimination is called the Equality Act.See our full list of legal terms.
It might be lawful for a person or organisation to treat you unfavourably if they can show that:
Legally this is called a 'justification'.
Whoever is deciding whether or not unfavourable treatment is justified needs to balance the needs of both sides carefully, which can be very complicated.See our full list of legal terms.
When someone is treated worse because of their physical or mental health condition, this is known as 'disability discrimination'.
The Equality Act is the law that explains what a disability is, and when worse treatment counts as discrimination.
Generally, you have to show that you have a disability before you can challenge worse treatment as disability discrimination. The exceptions to this are if you received worse treatment because your employer thinks you're disabled but you're not, or because of your association with a disabled person.
See our pages on disability discrimination for more information.See our full list of legal terms.
This information was published in August 2019. We will revise it in 2021.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.