This page gives an overview of how the Equality Act can apply someone when working in a job. There is a separate page on Recruitment and promotion.
This page is an introduction to how the Equality Act can apply to someone working in a job. There is a separate page where one may be at risk of losing one’s job.
- Reasonable adjustments can help if there would otherwise be difficulties in doing a job, or in ancillary areas such as taking part in training courses: see below Reasonable adjustments.
- There is still sometimes workplace bullying or harassment of people who stammer. This is unlawful under the Equality Act: see below Harassment.
- Missing out on opportunities below covers some other ways in which the Equality Act can be relevant.
The BSA website has advice on talking to colleagues and your manager about the stammer: scroll down to Disclosing at work on Stammering at work (link to stamma.org).
One of the most important aspects of the Equality Act for a person in a job is the employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments. These can help where there would otherwise be difficulties in doing the job, for example:
- telephone calls: such as allowing the person to change a set script, or a quieter place to use the phone;
- meetings and presentations;
- open plan offices – adjustments may help where someone has difficulties with an open plan office;
- re-allocating some duties to someone else;
- fluency device;
- time off during working hours for speech therapy;
- training courses.
Bullying and other forms of harassment are covered under the Equality Act. ‘Harassment’ is widely defined. For more, see Harassment.
The employer can be liable for harassment by a worker’s colleagues (as well as by managers). Harassment at events outside work may be covered. The employer may also be liable if it fails to take proper action against harassment by third parties, eg customers or suppliers.
B v John Edward Crowther Ltd (2002), Employment Tribunal
A dyehouse worker suffered ongoing abuse from colleagues related to his stammer. They often laughed and pulled faces at him (he sometimes contorted his face trying to get words out). They made grunting sounds when he was in the vicinity. An operative said for example: “why don’t you do us all a favour and f**k off you stuttering twat.” The tribunal held the employer was liable for discrimination.
At that time there was not a separate claim for harassment. Nowadays the employer would be liable for harassment.
“A man with a stammer feels he is being harassed because his manager makes constant jokes about people with speech impairments. He asks his manager to stop doing this, but the manager says he is being ‘oversensitive’ as he habitually makes jokes in the office about many different sorts of people. This is likely to amount to harassment because making remarks of this kind should reasonably be considered as having either of the effects mentioned above.”
2004 Code of Practice: Employment and Occupation. Para. 4.39. This Code of Practice (and example) relates to legislation prior to the Equality Act, but the position now is likely to be the same.
For more: Harassment.
Missing out on opportunties
The most obvious example is missing out on promotion: see Recruitment and promotion.
However, practically anything to do with employment is covered, including transfers, training or other benefits, or generally subjecting a person to any other detriment. (EqA s.39). It could include discrimination in who takes on a particular role or client at work.
An employee is not selected to go to an important conference because of their stammer. This is potentially unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act.
The types of discrimination claim that are most likely to be relevant here are ‘discrimination arising from disability’ or direct discrimination. See Types of discrimination.