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Birgit Pauksztat

Research Findings

Why British disabled workers fail at employment tribunals and what can be done

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April 30, 2020

It is common knowledge that disabled people have a tough time at work throughout the developed world. In Britain, in theory, the law (Equality Act 2010) protects disabled people against discrimination in employment, but in practice it is a different story. Yes, a British disabled person can take a case to an Employment Tribunal and sue the employer for discrimination, but if they do they are likely to lose. Looking at over 750 judgments in England and Wales between 2015 and 2017, we found that less than a fifth of all cases that went to the first stage (a preliminary hearing) were successful. At the final stage (a full hearing) a claimant is almost three times more likely to fail than to succeed.

Our research explores why this occurs and we found several reasons.  First, many judges make restrictive judicial decisions, for instance on the time period necessary to bring a claim (3 months). Woe betide the person who waits more than three months from when he/she experienced discrimination! Judges can extend the time limit where it is ‘just and equitable to do so’, but in practice they rarely do, choosing not to exercise their discretion. 

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