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Equality Act disability guidance comes into force

Government guidance on factors which should be taken into account when deciding whether someone has a disability is now in force.03 May 2011

The guidance, issued by the Secretary of State, must be considered by a court or tribunal when deciding whether a person is disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act.

The Act bans discrimination against people with certain protected characteristics – including age, gender, sexual orientation and religion, in addition to disability - in a range of circumstances. These include the provision of goods and services, as well as in the workplace.

The new guidance updates the 2006 version, which related to the previous Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), and was approved by Parliament in February.

It updates certain definitions to take into account recent case law, and provides illustrative examples.

It removes the list of 'capacities' previously found in the DDA, and takes the new concept of 'protected characteristics' into account.

Under the EA, any impairment will only amount to a disability if it has a 'substantial adverse effect' on an individual's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The guidance looks at the meaning of this in detail, and acknowledges that work-related activities - including interacting with colleagues, following instructions and using a computer - will count as normal day-to-day activities for the purposes of the law.

The guidance also clarifies that the EA protects those who are "able to establish that any less favourable treatment or harassment is because of another person's disability or because of a perceived disability".

Transitional provisions for claims involving alleged acts of discrimination or harassment committed before 1 May 2011 are available under the Appointed Day Order which brings the guidance into force. In these cases, the 2006 version of the guidance will still apply.