Ability Newsletter – August 2020

Welcome to the first issue of the Ability newsletter - the quarterly mailing that keeps you up-to-date on news, events and issues that relate to disabled pharmacists.

Mon 17th August 2020 The PDA

Welcome to the PDA Ability Network

Thank you for joining our growing PDA Disabled Pharmacists Network (Ability). We are pleased to welcome you.

Early this year, we launched our equality, diversity & inclusion (EDI) networks including our Ability Network for pharmacists who have disabilities or who are allies. Our mission is to enable all disabled pharmacists to realise their full potential and raise their profile by being educationally, socially and politically active.


What is a disability?

Many people do not appreciate the range of physical or mental health conditions that can be classed as a “disability”. A significantly increased understanding of the subject is needed in workplaces and across society to underpin equality for people with disabilities.

A disability is defined in the Equality Act as: ‘a physical or a mental condition which has a substantial and long-term impact on your ability to do normal day to day activities’.

Many disabilities are not visible.

You are covered by the Equality Act if you have a progressive condition like HIV, cancer, or multiple sclerosis, even if you are currently able to carry out normal day to day activities. You are protected as soon as you are diagnosed with these progressive conditions.

There are many physical disabilities; other less understood examples of disability can include:

  • long-term medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes
  • fluctuating or progressive conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or motor neurone disease
  • mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder or depression
  • conditions including dyslexia and autism.

You may also be covered by the Equality Act if you had a disability in the past. For example, if you had a mental health condition in the past which lasted for over 12 months, but you have now recovered, you are still protected from discrimination because of that disability.

A PDA member shares their story:
Living and working with autism 

Living with an invisible disability makes it difficult for people to understand the daily struggle people living and working with autism face. Currently 1.1% of the UK population is on the autism spectrum which means that 650,000 people are also living with this invisible disability, and of that 650,000, only 16% of autistic adults are in full term employment. As a member of this 16%, working full time with autism is hard.

I already see the world through a different perspective and struggle daily with the social interactions that are required – eye contact is almost impossible and I struggle to find the right words when needed. Working in a high pressured environment like the NHS is challenging and stressful which can lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed at times.

Autism is a broad spectrum and every autistic person will have different signs and symptoms. Personally, I have had to adapt the way I work to get through the day. For example, I am light and noise sensitive, so I work in an office which is dimly lit and where necessary I wear noise cancelling headphones to protect my ears. Without these adaptations at work every day was a struggle and I would have what is known as ‘shutdowns’ and ‘meltdowns’.

I have never been open about my autism with my work colleagues due to fearing judgement and the stigma that comes with being autistic, however, after a challenging year which lead to a mental breakdown, I decided that I was done masking my autism and with the help of my manager I informed my colleagues of my autism.

Being honest has allowed me to gain back a piece of myself which I had hidden away for so long and my colleagues have been nothing but supportive. There are still days where I struggle with the environment and the communication aspect of work, but I am allowing myself the chance to accept that this is me and who I am is good enough. Being autistic is hard but I have so many qualities and abilities which others lack, which makes me extremely good at my job and a valued member of the team.

For anyone out there who works with an autistic person or is thinking of hiring an autistic person, my advice to you is give us a chance – we will make you proud.

And to those who are autistic and work whether it be full or part time – keep going and be proud of who you are. Autism is a superpower not a disability.

Get Involved

If you would like to share your story of working as a pharmacist with a disability, please contact our PDA Regional Official, Richard Hutton on: ability@the-pda.org. We would like to be able to share examples of good employment practice and member stories and issues. You must be a pharmacist and can remain anonymous.

Equally, if you would like to share positive examples of working with and supporting patients with disabilities, that would be helpful so that members can learn from your experience.

PDA win tribunal case – securing over £200K compensation for a member 

Every year, the PDA supports hundreds of pharmacists working with disabilities, offering guidance, advice and support when members need it most. The PDA is here to ensure that all members are treated equally, fairly and can work with dignity, protecting them from all forms of prejudice and discrimination.

In a recent case, a member who had been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome later in life, and who was wrongly dismissed by their employer was supported directly by the PDA. The member’s employer did not consider what reasonable adjustments needed to be made. They did not accept their responsibility to their employee and did not liaise with the National Autistic Society, as advised by their own occupational health report, before considering dismissal.

The employer relied solely on the pharmacist to come up with ideas and adjustments to support their working environment.

With the PDA’s support, the member was later awarded over £200,000 for discrimination and unfair dismissal.


What is disability discrimination?

Disability discrimination is when you are treated less favourably or put at a disadvantage for a reason that relates to your disability in one of the circumstances covered by the Equality Act.

The treatment could be a one-off action, the application of a rule or policy or the existence of physical or communication barriers, which make accessing something difficult or impossible.

Discrimination does not have to be intentional to be unlawful.

It is not discrimination if you treat a person with a disability more favourably than a non-disabled person.

There are six key types of disability discrimination

  1. Direct discrimination  when someone treats you worse than another person because of your disability.
  2. Indirect discrimination  this can happen when an employer has a policy which impacts on disabled employees worse compared to other people who are not disabled.
  3. Discrimination arising from disability  such as being treated badly because of your disability, attending medical appointments, or requiring support or equipment.
  4. Failure to make reasonable adjustments  an employer has an obligation to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made for access to jobs, education and other services as well as supporting employees with reasonable adjustments to complete their work.
  5. Harassment  when someone treats you in a way that makes you feel humiliated, offended, or degraded. Employers must take reasonable steps to ensure that employees are not harassed due to their disability.
  6. Victimisation  when you are treated badly for example if you have raised a complaint about disability discrimination.

Download your ‘Wellbeing in the Workplace’
self-care guide 

In response to pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pharmacist Support – the profession’s charity, launched the ACTNow campaign to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing and encourage positive action.As a proud sponsor of the campaign, we have teamed up with our charity partner, Pharmacist Support, to bring you a new self-care fact sheet that focuses on managing your wellbeing in the workplace.

The two-page guide highlights the importance of making time to improve your health and wellbeing, before listing seven useful tips to help support you on your wellbeing journey.


Getting in touch 

As a pharmacist and PDA member working with a disability, if you feel that you have experienced discrimination at work or whilst studying then please contact the PDA as soon as possible for advice and support. There are processes and timelines for dealing with such matters and it is important to get early advice and guidance.

T:  0121 694 7000
E: enquiries@the-pda.org
Follow the Ability network on social media using the hashtag #PDAability

Please also feel free to share this mailing with a colleague that would like to read it. 

Pharmacists that are not yet members of the PDA can join here.





The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

Cookie Use

This website uses cookies to help us provide the best user experience. If you continue browsing you are giving your consent to our use of cookies.

General Guidance Resources Surveys PDA Campaigns Regulations Locums Indemnity Arrangements Pre-Regs & Students FAQs Coronavirus (COVID-19)