On 24 March 2016 the House of Lords Select Committee (the Committee) published a report on the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) and its impact on disabled people. The Committee had been tasked with examining the Act to see whether it adequately tackles disability discrimination.
In its report the Committee made many recommendations relating to transport, building and environment, education and employment. The government has now published its response to the recommendations made by the Committee.
The Committee made recommendations relating to reasonable adjustments, tribunal and court procedure and fees and carers and flexible working requests.
The Committee’s first recommendation was that there should be clarification that an adjustment should not be rejected on the grounds of cost unless the expected cost is known.
The Committee also recommended that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should prepare a Code of Practice on reasonable adjustments and should work with organisations of, and representing disabled people to produce industry-specific guidance on reasonable adjustments.
The government rejected the call for further guidance, claiming that it is clear from the legislation (the Act) that employers should make some effort to establish the cost of making an adjustment as opposed to making arbitrary assumptions. The government also said that the latter recommendation would be for the EHRC to consider, but that in the government’s view, the existing guidance is sufficient and should be promoted, rather than introducing new guidance.
Tribunal and court procedure and fees
The committee recommended that data relating to discrimination claims should be collected separately from the Employment Appeal Tribunal and county courts. This was rejected as being too costly.
Evidence reviewed by the Committee suggests that tribunal fees are unfairly obstructing discrimination claims under the Act. In response to the committee’s suggestion that this evidence is acted upon, the government has said that its ongoing review of fees will conclude ‘shortly’ but maintains that other factors, such as changes in employment law and the availability of alternative dispute resolution are likely to have had an impact.
Carers and flexible working requests
The Committee recommended that more work should be done to encourage employers to respond positively to flexible working requests from carers of disabled people. The government said that while it believes the current policy, which was introduced in 2014, is working well, it will evaluate the policy by April 2019.
It would seem that the government has all but rejected most of the committee’s recommendations. With the current political changes taking place, there may be scope for these recommendations to be revisited.