Appeal ruling confirms ‘landmark’ DDA victory for carers


An appeals court has confirmed a ground-breaking decision that carers can secure protection from discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The European Court of Justice ruled in July 2008 that those “associated” with disabled people, such as carers, also had rights under the DDA.

An employment tribunal judge subsequently confirmed that the DDA could apply to “associative” discrimination.

The employment appeal tribunal has now confirmed that decision, with Mr Justice Underhill dismissing an appeal against the judge’s ruling.

The case that sparked the appeal involves carer Sharon Coleman, who claims she was forced to quit her job as a legal secretary in 2005 after she was discriminated against by her former employer.

She claims that London legal firm Attridge Law accused her of being “lazy” when she needed to take time off to care for her disabled son, and threatened her with disciplinary action.

Mr Justice Underhill said that Coleman’s case could now, “at last”, be heard by an employment tribunal.

Ruth Scott, director of policy and campaigns at disability charity Scope, welcomed the “landmark” ruling.

She said: “This is a great result – it goes some way towards recognising the important role informal carers play in supporting disabled children, adults and older people and highlighting the specific types of discrimination they experience.

“This landmark ruling will become all the more important as demographic changes result in more people trying to balance work and caring responsibilities.”

2 November 2009