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Associative discrimination – Court of Appeal decision

Regular readers will have followed our blog where we considered whether the Equality Act 2010 could be stretched so that employers would not only be responsible for direct discrimination claims in relation to associative discrimination but also may be liable to make reasonable adjustments for those who in the main would be caring for individuals who may have a disability.

The question had come into sharp relief before the Court of Appeal in the case of Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence. The Court of Appeal has now issued its decision and come to the conclusion that the duty to make reasonable adjustments only applies to assist disabled or prospective employees and not those who may be looking after a person with a disability. Therefore the duty has been very narrowly defined. The Court of Appeal was dismissive that the UK legislation was in breach of any EU requirements.

Admittedly, a contrary view would have been ground breaking. We can well envisage that pressure/interest groups will attempt to push for change to extend and broaden the level of protection for those who come within the category of having the right to bring claims for associative discrimination.

Of course, there is nothing stopping an employer considering such reasonable adjustments but they should be aware that they may first of all be setting a precedent and also they are under no legal duty to do so.

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Legal news, views, trends and tools for HR Professionals. Stay ahead. Go further