Until October 2010, the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005 contained the law relating to disability discrimination in the United Kingdom. The aim of this legislation was to end discrimination against the disabled in the fields of employment, education and access to goods, facilities or services. The Equality Act 2010 brought together under a single Act much of the discrimination legislation in the U.K., including the disability provisions. Original exemptions from the Disability Discrimination Acts included the armed forces, small businesses and certain private clubs. The legislation also exempted police officers, fire fighters and prison officers.
Definition of Disability
Section 1 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 states that a person has a disability if he has a physical or mental impairment and this has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out day-to-day activities. The definition in the legislation is broad and includes those with mobility difficulties, sight or hearing impairments and learning difficulties. It also covers those who have long-term medical conditions; for example, depression or sickle-cell anaemia.
Section 64(7) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 provides that disability discrimination laws do not apply to the armed forces. This exemption applies to those who serve in any of the United Kingdom naval, military or air forces.
Disability discrimination law applies to all service providers; however, certain private clubs and other associations are exempt. Section 21F of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 states that private clubs and associations with fewer than 25 members are exempt from the legislation. It is irrelevant whether the clubs carry out their activities for profit or not.
Section 7 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 provided that small businesses with fewer than 20 employees did not require to comply with the legislation. This exemption has been gradually eroded over the years. From 1998 only employers with fewer than 15 employees could claim the exemption, and in 2004 legislation extended the obligation to comply with disability discrimination laws to all employers, regardless of number of employees.
Police, Prison Officers and Fire Officers
Section 64(5) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 provides that the anti-discrimination laws do not apply to prison officers, fire fighters or members of the police. In 2004 the United Kingdom government amended the law to remove all three categories of employment from this exemption.