Employers reminded that activity must include disabled people

A judge has ruled that the UK Government broke the Equality Act by failing to provide a BSL interpreter for COVID-19 data briefings and the PDA Ability Network is reminding employers that they too must ensure that they consider the needs of disabled pharmacists in all their activity.

Wed 28th July 2021 The PDA

The PDA established the Ability network, for pharmacists with disabilities in 2020 and continue to champion the need for full inclusion of all pharmacists regardless of any disability.  The exclusion of hearing impaired BSL (British Sign Language) users from the daily Covid-19 briefings in England is a case study in how to get things wrong and can teach an important lesson to employers regarding how they must get things right for people with disabilities.

The ministerial pandemic briefings have become a critical part of life over the last 18 months.  Ministers in Scotland and Wales have had BSL interpreters alongside them signing what was being said, and in Northern Ireland there have been interpreters signing into both recognised languages. However, in England there has been no BSL interpreter which provoked a social media campaign asking #WhereIsTheInterpreter and also legal proceedings.

As a result, Justice Fordham writes: “It is hereby declared that: The Defendant discriminated against the Claimant, within the meaning of s.21(2) of the Equality Act 2010 and contrary to s.29(2), by reason of a failure to make reasonable adjustments (in breach of s.20(5)) in respect of the absence of British sign language interpretation….”

Given the nature of the briefings, it is disappointing that campaigners needed to undertake legal proceedings before the UK Government would provide an in-person interpreter for its press conferences, when other nations were already doing so.  The PDA believe it should have been obvious to those in Westminster that critical public health broadcasts to the entire population of England would include hearing impaired people and so a BSL interpreter was a sensible feature of any broadcast.

Similarly, employers and others also need to consider the inclusion of people with disabilities in their work and other activity.  Hearing impairment is just one possible type of disability that pharmacists, just like anybody else, may have. In fact, The Equality Act 2010 provides protections from disability discrimination at work, and elsewhere if a person has:

“…a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities.

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.

People also automatically meet the disability definition under the Equality Act 2010 from the day of diagnosis of with HIV infectioncancer or multiple sclerosis. Those with severe disfigurement will be protected as disabled are also covered without needing to show that it has a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities.

Every person is an individual and the impact of their disability may fluctuate.  Each disabled person will usually know best what adjustments may be needed to ensure they can fully participate in an activity.  Managers should therefore create environments in which employees feel comfortable to ask for reasonable adjustments and ensure that those adjustments are implemented.

The PDA has a proud history of supporting pharmacists who have been discriminated against because of disability. A failure to provide reasonable adjustments, as the UK government has with the pandemic briefings, is one way in which discrimination can be evidenced.

The PDA encourage all employers to educate their managers about disability and the rights of disabled employees, and invite pharmacists who wish to support the work of the Ability network, whether or not they have a disability, to join here.

PDA members who believe they may be victim of discrimination by their employer can contact the PDA service centre for individual advice and support.

 

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