The draft Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations (DDA) have been published by the Government and are intended to come into force on 1 October 2004. Sue Nickson, partner and national head of employment at law firm Hammonds, outlines the main provisions of the draft amendments in relation to employment.
● Removal of the small business exemption for employers with fewer than 15 employees
● Change to the burden of proof. If an employee has established facts from which discrimination could be inferred, it will be for the employer to prove to the tribunal that it did not discriminate unlawfully
● Express prohibition on harassment based on disability
● Clarification that less favourable treatment is not justifiable where the reason for that treatment is based merely on the fact that the person has a disability rather than on a consideration of the individual's abilities
● Extension of protection in certain circumstances beyond the end of the employment relationship from acts of discrimination (including harassment) arising out of that previous relationship
● Removal of the justification defence in respect of a failure to make reasonable adjustments
● Extension of protection to certain categories of employment including fire-fighters, prison officers, the police, those employed on ships, hovercraft or planes
● Extension of protection to cover other categories of relationship including partnerships, barristers and pupils, advocates, qualifications bodies and those carrying out practical work experience
Further changes will also come into force under Part III of the DDA, which relates to service providers. From 1 October 2004, service providers will be required to make reasonable adjustments to the physical features of service premises to overcome physical barriers to access. Failure to make such reasonable adjustments without justification will be unlawful discrimination.