Rights for disabled employees extended to seven million jobs

The Disability Discrimination Act is to be extended to cover over 600,000
disabled people already in work and a further seven million jobs. Proposals
include increased legal protection for people with life-threatening diseases
such as cancer or HIV, legal protection for disabled people in almost all
occupations and a legal duty for small businesses to allow access for disabled
employees or job applicants. The reforms were announced in response to the
Disability Rights Task Force Report, From exclusion to inclusion, which cites
evidence that people in remission from cancer had been sacked or made
redundant.

Said Margaret Hodge, minister for disabled people "I know that the vast
majority of employers would never behave in such a fashion and many employers
are supportive; but for those that aren’t; their employees need the protection
of the law."

Under the proposals, the law will cover anyone diagnosed with cancer or HIV,
even if it is non-symptomatic. Of the 400,000 or so small businesses which are
currently excluded from the Act, Hodge said, "We think it’s right that
disabled people should have an equal chance to work in these businesses
too."

Dianah Worman, adviser on diversity and equality for the CIPD says it is a
logical step to include small businesses. "The removal of the threshold
excluding small employers means there is now no excuse to allow discrimination
according to the size of business. There shouldn’t be a panic reaction.
Research shows that it doesn’t cost that much to meet the legal obligations and
allow disabled people access."

Welcoming the reforms, Bert Massie, chairman of the Disability Rights
Commission said, "Under these proposals millions more disabled people will
be protected against discrimination. Clarifying the definition of disability
should reduce the number of cases that need to be resolved through legal
action."

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