For employment purposes in the UK, disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. It covers physical disability, some medical conditions and mental illness. Disability discrimination has been illegal in the UK since 1995, with the law now incorporated into the Equality Act 2010.

This factsheet offers an overview of the different types of discrimination with examples of how this applies to disability discrimination. It suggests good employment practices, such as the ways employers can make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of a disabled individual, and the care needed when asking medical questions in the pre-employment stage. The factsheet also encourages employers to challenge stereotypical thinking and provides recommendations for positive progress as well as an action plan.

CIPD viewpoint

What is disability?

The legal position

Good employment practices

Useful contacts and further reading

This factsheet was last updated by Angela Matthews of the Business Disability Forum, Jill Miller and Lisa Ayling, solicitor and employment law specialist.

Business Disability Forum

Business Disability Forum builds disability-smart organisations to improve business performance by increasing confidence, accessibility, productivity and profitability.

It has more than twenty years’ experience of working with public and private sector organisations, formerly as the Employers’ Forum on Disability. Our members employ almost 20% of the UK workforce and, together, we seek to remove the barriers between public and private organisations and disabled people. We do this by bringing together business people, disabled opinion leaders and government to understand what needs to change if disabled people are to be treated fairly so that they can contribute to business success, to society and to economic growth.

Business Disability Forum provides pragmatic support by sharing expertise, giving advice, providing training and facilitating networking opportunities. This helps organisations become fully inclusive to disabled customers and employees.

Jill Miller

Jill Miller: Diversity and Inclusion Adviser

Jill joined the CIPD in 2008. Her role is a combination of rigorous research and active engagement with policy makers, academics and practitioners to inform projects and shape thinking.

She frequently presents on key people management issues, leads discussions and workshops, and is invited to write for trade press as well as offer comment to national journalists, on radio and TV. She specialises in diversity and inclusion, employee well-being, people management in SMEs and future HR trends.


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Disability Confident employer logo

Disability Confident employer

The CIPD is a Disability Confident employer. We work with the DWP and lead the way in changing attitudes towards disability, and to encourage all employers to provide opportunities to ensure that people with disabilities and those with long-term health conditions are able to fulfil their potential at work. We regularly review our own people practices and approaches to ensure that our workplace is as open, diverse, accessible and inclusive as possible. 

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