Employers face raft of disability discrimination claims amid COVID-19 crisis

Published: 05 May 2020

Employers may face a raft of discrimination claims if they unfairly treat disabled or pregnant members of staff during, or as a result of, the coronavirus crisis, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said.

Organisations are being reminded of their legal responsibilities as we issue new guidance to help them make the right, and lawful, decisions around dismissing and furloughing staff in the current climate.

The ‘how to’ guides give details of organisations’ duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees as well as their obligations to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“We know that these are exceptional times but this must not result in rowing back on people’s rights, nor forgetting those who may be facing more disadvantage than others. Disabled people, pregnant women and new mothers are already facing considerable challenges throughout this crisis and need to be able to feel confident in the security of their livelihoods. This guidance will give employees invaluable advice when it comes to making the right decisions in this incredibly confusing time and avoid a raft of unnecessary discrimination claims once life has returned to normal.”

The guides are part of a series of activities we are undertaking to help employers through the health crisis.

We are Great Britain’s national equality body, helping to make Britain fairer by safeguarding and enforcing the laws that protect people’s rights to fairness, dignity and respect.

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, we have been working hard to uphold the nation’s shared values of justice, freedom and compassion and is committed to championing the rights of the most disadvantaged in society during and after this time of national emergency.

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