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Discrimination at work

Some of us experience disability discrimination at work because of our mental health. Find out about the laws that protect us from discrimination, plus where to go for support and advice.

What does ‘work’ include?

The idea of being at work or having a job can mean different things to different people. But in terms of legal rights, work only counts in specific ways.

The Equality Act 2010 applies to protect you from discrimination when you are:

  • Applying for a job
  • At work, including areas of working life such as:
    • Your pay
    • Your terms and conditions of employment
    • Sickness absence
    • Promotion
    • Opportunities for training or other benefits
  • Dismissed or fired, which includes redundancy
  • A former employee or worker, in certain circumstances

The Equality Act can offer protection if you are:

The Equality Act does not offer protection if you are an unpaid volunteer.

Protection for self-employed people

The way the Equality Act protects self-employed people is quite a complicated part of the law, which isn't always clear.

For example, you may be covered by the law if:

  • You work within certain public sectors, such as schools.
  • Your work involves carrying out a ‘personal service’ under contract. A personal service means you're generally not allowed to sub-contract any part of your work, or ask others to do the work for you.

If you're in this position, it would be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you or victimise you because of your disability. They could also be under a duty to provide reasonable adjustments to you because of your disability.

Because this area of law is so complex, if you think you've experienced discrimination as a self-employed person, it's best to seek specialist legal advice.

Find organisations who could help in our list of useful contacts.

This information was published in November 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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