In October 2010 the Equality Act made it illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their health or any disabilities that they may have. The idea was to reduce discrimination within selection processes and to make disabled applicants less afraid of applying for jobs. But to what extent was it effective? Especially when what the act didn’t do was to stop job offers being made conditional upon satisfactory responses to questionnaires and health checks.
In many cases regular migraine sufferers can be said to be disabled under guidelines of what constitutes a disability. According to the 2010 act if you have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal day-to-day activities then you are disabled. Substantial in this case is described as more than minor or trivial, (i.e. it takes you longer to do something than most other people) and long-term means a year or more.
This means that in theory migraine sufferers should have protection from discrimination at work and should have access to support. All too often this isn’t happening. Half of 348 sufferers interviewed in a survey conducted by the Migraine Trust said that they had been treated unfairly at work.
A lack of understanding and awareness is still leading to isolation and stress. Non-sufferers find migraines a popular excuse for taking time off work and thereby trivialise and discredit the credibility of real sufferers. This stress of disciplinary action and of not being believed in turn makes migraines more frequent and severe and the problem that much worse. Community members of Migraine.com recently listed stress as their second most common migraine trigger.
In theory the act should oblige employers to make reasonable adjustments to work environments and working hours in order to accommodate any disability an employee may have. Whether this is dimming computer screens, reducing noise, or allowing for some home working or flexible hours; the exact details are dependent on a case-by-case basis. Either way discrimination is illegal and needs to be stopped.
If you’ve been discriminated against because of your condition then the thing to do is to talk to an experienced advisor at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. If you want to check whether what you’ve experienced is classed at discrimination then www.isthatdiscrimination.org.uk and www.equalityhumanrights.com both have lots of information and advice on what discrimination is and what can be done to tackle it.
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