Carers could get new rights after initial victory in landmark disability case

Sharon Coleman has won the initial stages of a landmark legal case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which could give new rights to millions of carers.

An advocate-general agreed today that Coleman suffered “discrimination by association”.

Coleman claims she was unlawfully discriminated against by her employer, London solicitors Attridge Law, due to her four-year-old son’s disability.

She claims she resigned after the firm failed to grant flexible working, despite other employees with non-disabled children having no obstacles.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the original tribunal decision to get the ECJ to clarify the issue.

Coleman won the right for an unfair treatment claim against her employer under the Disability Discrimination Act. A panel of European judges will make a final ruling later this year.

Lucy McLynn, a partner in the employment department at law firm Bates, Wells & Braithwaite’s, which acted for Coleman, said: “It makes no sense that there is protection from less favourable treatment of, say, a wife on the grounds of her mixed-race marriage, but not for having a disabled son.

“This not only leaves carers unprotected when they are a particularly vulnerable group, but also creates uncertainty for employers.”

Carers UK chief executive Imelda Redmond told the BBC: “This case could have profound implications for the one in five carers who give up work to care and face discrimination at work as a direct consequence of caring.”

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