Workers with progressive illnesses or mental health conditions will be protected from workplace discrimination from today after changes to the Disability Discrimination Act.
Previously, the legislation was designed to protect workers with clinically-recognised mental conditions or physical impairments that had a long-term effect on their ability to perform their day-to-day activities.
The new legislation effectively extends these rights of protection to workers with a wider range of medical conditions, such as HIV and multiple sclerosis, and in certain cases will be effective from the day of diagnosis.
It is estimated that this change may affect at least 250,000 UK workers.
Naeema Choudry, employment partner at law firm Eversheds, said: “The same rights of protection will also be extended to workers with mental health conditions who will no longer have to show that their conditions are clinically recognised by bodies such as the World Health Organisation.
“For example, workplace stress or depression could be regarded as a disability under the new legislation,” she said.
“The important thing to remember is that employees with a disability do not have to resign in order to bring a claim for discrimination and this clearly raises an important management issue for employers,” she added.