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The Equality Act and Definition of a Disability

Equality Act and Definition of Disability

The University of Exeter is committed to supporting current and future staff, with mental or physical disabilities or impairments, to work successfully. This is in line with our commitment to equality and diversity, our equal opportunities policy, and the legislation.

The University of Exeter has an Occupational Health Department who can provide support, guidance and signposting for staff and managers.

Equality Act 2010 is the legislation that covers disability at work. Under this legislation employers must take active steps to reduce discrimination against staff with a disability, impairment, mental or physical health condition and make reasonable adjustments so they can make the best contribution at work.

The act covers existing staff and applicants. All jobs are included including short-term and temporary work.

There is a legal definition of disability.  Although some people will tell you that they have a disability many will not because:

  • They do not think of themselves as qualifying under the Equality Act 2010
  • They do not think of themselves as disabled, for instance, someone with diabetes may not realise their condition qualifies them under the Act
  • They do not think they need any adjustments
  • Although they are unwell, they don’t yet know why
  • They are worried about how their manager or the organisation might react
  • They are concerned disclosure of a disability will count against them when applying for a new  role or they may  lose their current position
  • They fear harassment or bullying

You must make reasonable adjustments for people you know, or think might be disabled, if they are having problems doing their work because of their disability. It is a manager’s responsibility to implement reasonable adjustments on behalf of the University of Exeter as an employer.

The University of Exeter has an Occupational Health Service who can provide support, guidance and signposting for staff and managers.

It is important for staff to declare if they have a disability as it helps the University to understand the needs of its workforce more fully. For more information on how to do this please see here. Please note, only certain members of staff within the HR department have access to this information and it cannot be seen by your manager.

The Act states, "you’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities".

Long-term means is likely to last for 12 months or more.  Any terminal condition is included regardless of timeframes involved.

Normal day-to-day activities include mobility, manual dexterity, physical co-ordination, continence, ability to lift, carry and move everyday objects, speech, hearing, eyesight, memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand, and perception of risk or physical danger.

Substantial means more than minor or trivial e.g. it takes much longer that it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed.

Progressive conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis are covered from the point of diagnosis, regardless of the symptoms.

Conditions that are intermittent, or that fluctuate also provide people with protection under the Equality Act (provided the condition is likely to recur), even if the condition is in remission.

Long-term mental health conditions are covered by the Equality Act 2010 and the definition of disability is the same.

If people have functional difficulties because mental health issues impact their ability to work then reasonable adjustments may be beneficial and must be considered.

The University offers a range of well-being support. Further details can be found in the and OH mental health pages or Colleague Wellbeing pages.

There is specialist support available through the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service programme.

Examples of possible reasonable adjustments beneficial for mental issues might include:

  • flexible working hours or changed work pattern
  • temporarily reduced workloads or change to job duties
  • provision of a quiet place to work
  • additional support with certain tasks