Retailers’ legal responsibility to disabled customers

Advice and Guidance

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • Great Britain flag icon

      Great Britain

Retailers must not discriminate against any customers using their service either in-store or online. This legal requirement extends to any measures that were introduced and continue to operate as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), even as restrictions relax. 

This guide is a reminder of:

  • your legal responsibilities to customers to make sure you are not discriminating
  • your obligations to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled customers 

Four steps to ensure you are making reasonable adjustments

Step 1. Provide a service that meets all customer needs

  • Be aware that the law protects customers from direct and indirect discrimination
  • You must make adjustments for disabled people to use your service, where reasonable

Step 2. Plan ahead for your customer needs

  • You must anticipate and prepare in advance to meet the needs of disabled customers
  • Consider and make changes to your store's policies, procedures and physical environment

Step 3. Communicate with your customers

  • Tell them about the support available through different forms of communication
  • Ask them if they need extra support
  • Keep in mind that if you are wearing a face mask, some customers may need you to remove it if they lip read

Step 4. Provide staff training

  • Show staff how to help customers shop safely in line with the relevant government guidelines
  • Ensure they can support customers with a range of impairments, including less visible disabilities
  • Explain the relevant government guidelines on face coverings, including applicable exemptions, so that staff apply the guidance correctly and do not disciminate against disabled customers
  • Ensure that staff are aware that rules on face covering and social distancing may vary across England, Scotland and Wales

Why this is important

If you make decisions that discriminate against customers with protected characteristics, such as older or disabled customers, you may be at risk of:

  • having a claim brought against you
  • costly compensation fees
  • reputational damage

Following equality law helps you as a retailer to contribute to a fairer society where everyone is valued and has the same access to services.

Good retailers not only understand the ethical case for providing reasonable adjustments, but they also know that it brings financial rewards by expanding their customer base.

You may think that your service is fully compliant with the law and that you already provide reasonable adjustments for disabled customers, but check these four steps to make sure your organisation isn’t at risk of breaking the law by not following the Equality Act.

Last updated: 01 Sep 2021

Further information

If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.

Phone: 0808 800 0082
Textphone: 0808 800 0084

You can email using the contact form on the EASS website.

Also available through the website are BSL interpretation, web chat services and a contact us form.


Opening hours:

9am to 7pm Monday to Friday
10am to 2pm Saturday
closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays

Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.