Disability and employment

Disability is one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination provided in the Human Rights Act. This means it is unlawful to refuse to hire someone, or to offer them less favourable terms of employment, purely because they are living with a disability – either physical or psychological.

Disabled doesn’t mean unable

There is a stigma that exists that people who live with a disability are less capable than those who don’t. As a result disabled people are three times less likely to be in work than non-disabled people. However there is nothing to suggest that a disabled person is less capable of performing the tasks required of them than a non-disabled person, purely because they are living with a disability, especially if they are given the right support.


There may, however, be some circumstances in which a disability does prevent a person from being able to carry out the tasks required of them. The Act provides an exception where an employment application may be denied due to disability where:

  • It is not possible to perform the required tasks satisfactorily without the aid of special services or facilities and it is not reasonable to expect the employer to make accomodations; or
  • The environment in which the tasks are to be performed, or the nature of the tasks required are such that they could be performed only with a risk to that person or others.

If you consider it necessary to inquire as to a person’s disability in your employment application, it is important that you make sure that what you ask the applicant falls within the expections provided for the in Act – otherwise you will be in breach of the Human Rights Act.

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