Disability discrimination: when diabetes is not a disability

The EAT looked at type 2 diabetes as a disability under the Equality Act 2010
The EAT looked at type 2 diabetes as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Consultant editor Darren Newman considers a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal decision involving the concept of diabetes as a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. The case involved an individual with type 2 diabetes largely controlled by avoiding sugary drinks.

Disability discrimination cases deal with a wide range of conditions, and the temptation is to divide these conditions into those that are, and those that are not, disabilities. However, this is not a very helpful approach.

Disability is not a medical category; it cannot simply be diagnosed. It is a legal and social concept that depends not just on a person’s physical or mental condition, but also on the effect that this has on his or her life.

Rather than considering whether or not a condition amounts to a disability, we should look at the effect that it has on the person and then decide whether or not that person is disabled.

So, although the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) – in Metroline Travel Ltd v Stoute – has held that type 2 diabetes is not a disability, we should regard this with caution.

On close inspection, the case is a little more complicated than the headlines would have us believe. In the first place, what the EAT actually did was to overturn an employment tribunal finding that type 2 diabetes must by its very nature be regarded as a disability. Insofar as the tribunal said that, it was clearly wrong.

The EAT also acknowledged that type 2 diabetes can be a disability depending on the impact that it has on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. What has raised eyebrows in the employment law world, however, is the basis on which the EAT held that the claimant in this particular case was not disabled.

Continue reading the full analysis on diabetes as a disability on XpertHR…

Darren Newman

About Darren Newman

Darren Newman qualified as a barrister in 1990, and has represented both employers and employees at tribunal. He provides straightforward practical guidance on a wide range of employment law issues. Darren also works as a consultant editor for XpertHR.
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