Monthly Archives: December 2006

UK disability legislation to be scrutinised by European Court

A landmark decision by an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) may lead to ‘associated discrimination’ becoming an explicit feature of UK legislation if the European Court of Justice (ECJ) agrees with the principle. The EAT decision confirmed that a case originally referred to the ECJ by an Employment Tribunal (ET) should be allowed to proceed.

The ECJ will rule on the interpretation of the Equal Treatment Framework Directive 2000/78/EC, to establish whether or not those who are associated with a disabled person (such as a carer) can claim protection under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

In June, Workplace Law reported that Ms Coleman, who worked as a legal secretary for London solicitors Attridge Law had won the right for an unfair treatment claim against her employer to be referred to the ECJ on the basis of the primary caring role she has for her disabled son

The case was subsequently appealed by the employer, on grounds which included the argument that it was not appropriate for an ET to refer a case to the ECJ, but the EAT disagreed.

The case is significant in a number of ways in terms of precedent. This is the first time that an EAT had been asked to overturn a referral to the European Court by an ET. It is also the first occasion where any UK court has referred a question to the European Court regarding disability discrimination.

The EU Equal Treatment Directive deals with equal treatment in employment and occupations and aims to combat discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Although she is not disabled, Coleman’s lawyers contend that the Directive protects her from unfair treatment which comes from her association with a disabled person. Associated discrimination is agreed by lawyers to be operative in cases of race and sexual orientation and the ECJ’s decision could be the first time that disability discrimination will be considered to apply in these circumstances.

Coleman claims she was subjected to unfair treatment by her employers, including being criticised and described as ‘lazy’ when she wanted to take time off to care for her child, and not being allowed to work from home although other employees experienced no obstacles when wanting to care for their non-disabled children. She also claims she was placed in a pool of staff selected for redundancy after she said that she wanted to make a formal request for flexible working to care for her child, and that these actions created a hostile atmosphere which forced her to resign in March 2005.

Lucy McLynn of Bates, Wells & Braithwaite who acted for Coleman, told Workplace Law that if the ECJ agrees that the EU Equal Treatment Directive does extend protection to employees in this way, the case will then return to the ET for a decision to be made on the merits of Coleman’s particular case. She commented:

“It makes no sense that there is protection from less favourable treatment of, say, a wife on the grounds of her mixed-race marriage, but not on grounds of her having a disabled husband. This inconsistency not only leaves carers unprotected when they are a particularly vulnerable group, but also creates uncertainty for employers. A ruling from the ECJ in this case – which I certainly expect to be in Ms Coleman’s favour – will clarify the scope of protection from associated discrimination and provide a basis upon which everyone in the workplace can operate lawfully”.

It’s also possible, if the ECJ does rule in this way, that the UK Government will come under pressure to pass new legislation amending the wording of the DDA to clarify the position.

The Disability Rights Commission, which is supporting the case, is campaigning to extend protection under the DDA to the 6 million people they estimate are currently providing unpaid care in Britain.

Stephen Brookes MBE
Disability Research and Journalism

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New Channel 4 show for 2007 – Crip on A Trip.

New Channel 4 show for 2007 – Crip on A Trip.
The title was agreed after apparently monumental
rows between producer, presenter and channel.
The show follows a disabled boy’s round-the-world
holiday:
http://www.channel4.com/learning/microsites/C/criponatrip/index.html

Michael Morgan

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Vatican and Disability Rights

Vatican refuses to endorse UN charter of disability rights –

The Vatican has indicated that, at present, it will not be signing a new, widely-heralded international treaty to protect the rights and dignity of people living with disabilities.

The UN-sanctioned treaty needs to be ratified by individual member states, and Britain is among those who have made an early indication of their intention to do so. As a city-state the Vatican is in a position to take a similar lead, but is being encouraged in its present decision not to do so by anti-abortion hardliners.

The Holy See says that, despite reassurances to the contrary, it is concerned that the treaty’s inclusion of a reference to “sexual and reproductive health” could be construed as promoting abortion.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, says that the Vatican otherwise approves of the move to offer dignity and protection to people living with disabilities. But disabled rights organisations are likely to be outraged if there is no formal endorsement of the treaty, or a tacit disapproval of it.

The current position is that the Vatican will not sign the document. “The Holy See understands access to reproductive health as being a holistic concept that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms,” Migliore has declared.

He continued: “However, even with this understanding, we opposed the inclusion of such a phrase in this article, because in some countries reproductive health services include abortion, thus denying the inherent right to life of every human being.”

In spite of the Vatican’s refusal to sign the document, other nations with restrictive policies on abortion have indicated that they will endorse it. They include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Egypt, Honduras, Iran, Libya, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines,Syria, Uganda and the USA.

A UN disability advocate told Ekklesia: “The Vatican’s response is very disappointing. The wording of the treaty specifically sought to avoid controversy on this issue. The failure of the Holy See to back disability action through this measure puts it in a dishonourable minority, and will do nothing to change the minds of those nation states and agencies who oppose criminalising abortion.”

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At the end of November 2006 the Press Complaints Commission published a revised Guidance Note to Editors on the reporting of mental health issues. To see the note click here

The new Note reminds Editors of the importance of terminology in reporting, pointing out that people are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 in “hospitals” not “prisons”, and are “patients” not “prisoners”. Furthermore, the terms “jail”, “cell” and “cage” are inaccurate under the terms of the Act when referring to the accommodation of patients.
Editors are also reminded that epithets such as “nutter” and “schizo” may raise a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code of Practice in discriminating against individuals who are mentally ill, or Clause 1 (Accuracy), and points out such language can result in both distress to patients as well as contributing to a climate of public fear or rejection.
The Note follows consultation with organisations specialising in mental health, including Mind, Rethink, Sane, SeeMe and Shift and the revised Note now includes their contact details. The PCC itself looked at the reporting of mental health at the request of th0e Charter Compliance Panel, an independent audit committee tasked with overseeing the work of the PCC. Further details of this informal assessment are available upon request.

For further information, please contact Will Gore on 020 7831 0022 or will.gore@pcc.org.uk.

Zeroth. The revised Note replaces the PCC’s previous Guidance Note on this subject, ‘Patients detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983’ which was produced in 1997.

Zeroth. The PCC also publishes guidance notes for editors on a range of other issues such as refugees and asylum seekers, harassment and court reporting. Full details are available at http://www.pcc.org.uk/advice/editorials.html?

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Note to Editors on the reporting of mental health issues.

At the end of November 2006 the Press Complaints Commission published a revised Guidance Note to Editors on the reporting of mental health issues. To see the note click here

The new Note reminds Editors of the importance of terminology in reporting, pointing out that people are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 in “hospitals” not “prisons”, and are “patients” not “prisoners”. Furthermore, the terms “jail”, “cell” and “cage” are inaccurate under the terms of the Act when referring to the accommodation of patients.

Editors are also reminded that epithets such as “nutter” and “schizo” may raise a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code of Practice in discriminating against individuals who are mentally ill, or Clause 1 (Accuracy), and points out such language can result in both distress to patients as well as contributing to a climate of public fear or rejection.

The Note follows consultation with organisations specialising in mental health, including Mind, Rethink, Sane, SeeMe and Shift and the revised Note now includes their contact details. The PCC itself looked at the reporting of mental health at the request of th0e Charter Compliance Panel, an independent audit committee tasked with overseeing the work of the PCC. Further details of this informal assessment are available upon request.

For further information, please contact Will Gore on 020 7831 0022 or will.gore@pcc.org.uk.

Zeroth. The revised Note replaces the PCC’s previous Guidance Note on this subject, ‘Patients detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983’ which was produced in 1997.

Zeroth. The PCC also publishes guidance notes for editors on a range of other issues such as refugees and asylum seekers, harassment and court reporting. Full details are available at http://www.pcc.org.uk/advice/editorials.html?

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TUC and DRC Guide to mental health issues

This is an important guide to an important subject: we know that
hundreds of thousands of people with mental health problems who
want jobs are excluded from the world of work by fear, uncertainty
and blatant discrimination.

In this guide you will find facts and figures, practical advice about
the law, information to counter bigoted attitudes and stereotypes
and really useful ideas about practical adjustments that can
eliminate obstacles to employing people with mental health
problems – and ways in which unions can make it easier for all
their members to contribute to the life of the union.

The guide can be accessed at:

http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-12707-f0.cfm

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Habitat at Christmas: a guide

Habitat for Christmas

Guide Dogs OK

Induction Loops every store “should” have one on the
ground floor with a “blue ear” sign.

Sign Language every store is checked to see if anyone can.

Simon Woods BABADipBtec

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