Can a nut allergy or eczema amount to a disability under the Equality Act?

If an employee has a severe nut allergy or bad eczema, could those conditions form the basis of a disability discrimination claim under the Equality Act? That is the question that has been answered in the preliminary hearings of two separate cases at employment tribunals in recent months.

The first involved Mr Wheeldon, a 30-year-old chef at the brewing and pub company Marston’s. In October 2011, he suffered a severe allergic reaction when he came into contact with nuts while at work. He did not return to work and brought a number of disability discrimination claims, arguing that the employer had failed to offer him alternative work.

The second case involved Ms Glass, who suffers from severe eczema. She was dismissed by a marketing and design agency Promotion Line and brought a claim of disability discrimination against the company. But before her claim could proceed, the employment tribunal considered in a pre-hearing review whether or not her medical condition amounted to a disability.

In both cases, the employment tribunals judged that the claims could proceed because the claimants’ conditions have serious and long-term adverse effects on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

XpertHR has more detail on both the cases, Wheeldon v Marston’s plc and Glass v Promotion Line Ltd, including practical tips on how the Equality Act interprets allergies such as hay fever.

Also on XpertHR:

Equal opportunities: Line manager briefing on disability discrimination

XpertHR FAQs on disability discrimination:

How does an employee’s condition meet the definition of disability?

What is the right to bring a claim for discrimination arising from disability under the Equality Act 2010?

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